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The Impossible Run: Sonic Tech Helps Blind Runners 'See' Their Own Way [Video]

9 May 2017, 7:35 pm EDT By Alexandra Burlacu Tech Times
An 18-year-old visually impaired athlete was able to run unassisted for the first time thanks to sonic technology, which created a sound corridor to guide his way. Hyper directional sound technology could be a real game changer and "The Impossible Run" project is just getting started.  ( The Impossible Run )

Sonic technology can help blind or visually impaired individuals run on their own, without needing another person to guide them.

Oscan Widegren, an 18-year-old judo master, physics student and rock band drummer who has been visually impaired since the age of 5, enrolled in a project called "The Impossible Run" with one goal in mind: train without relying on another person. His dream finally came true thanks to sonic technology, which helped him "see" his own way.

The Impossible Run

The Impossible Run is an ambitious experiment and the first of its kind, developed in collaboration with Swedish sound design company Lexter to help the blind or visually impaired overcome challenges.

Imagine wanting to run, train or exercise, but not being able to see the track or figure out which way to go. For Oscar, this is not an exercise of imagination, it's his reality and as much as he loves to be physically active, he needs someone else by his side to guide him and help him out.

Oscar has always dreamed about moving more easily, playing sports or running, without needing someone by his side to assist him. With this experiment, he finally managed to train alone and the impossible run became possible.

The experiment proved not only that blind or visually impaired individuals can run without another person's help, but also that running can be more empowering and rewarding like this.

Sonic technology made an incredible difference for him and will likely have a major impact for others like him as well. For the first time, Oscar managed to run relying only on himself and the technology, not on another person, and that's huge.

Oscar, like many other blind or visually impaired individuals, uses sound to understand what's going on and grasp the world around him. The Impossible Run gave him a unique experience and holds great potential for revolutionizing sports for people like him, who have to deal with more challenges and limitations.

"The Impossible Run was made to prove the absolute accuracy of hyper directional sound technology," explains the description on the official website. "Through a laser sharp sound tunnel, we enabled visually impaired Oscar to run unassisted for the very first time, guided only by sound."

Hyper Directional Sound Technology

Oscar was able to run by himself and find his own way along the stadium thanks to hyper directional sound technology, which can emit sound in incredibly narrow beams. The speakers created two parallel ultrasonic beams of sound, virtually creating a sound corridor to guide Oscar.

The technology is not something utterly new, but so far no one attempted to re-envision the running track lines with such "sound lines" to essentially create a sound corridor that would enable a blind individual to "see" the track.

The ambitious experiment took two years of training and planning, calibrating and optimization to hit just frequency and sound so that Oscar could hear it even when running at full speed.

Finally, they were ready for action and on March 17, Oscar made his dream come true, running all by himself on a stadium near Stockholm, demonstrating the great capabilities of the sonic tech.

The setup consisted of two high-tech hyper directional speakers positioned 50 meters ahead of Oscar's starting point. One speaker was on the right, the other on the left, both playing a different sound, together creating a sound corridor that guided Oscar to move straight ahead just by relying on the right and left sounds. A third speaker, meanwhile, awaited at the finish line, playing its own sound to indicate the end of the run so that Oscar would know he needs to slow down and stop.

Just Getting Started

The Impossible Run experiment has clearly proved to be a successful one, but it's just getting started. Oscar was the first to demonstrate the huge potential hyper directional sound technology has to help visually impaired individuals find their own way, and the project will expand.

Viktoria Karlsson, Euro-Gold Medalistin the Long Jump for blind athletes, has requested such a setup to help her train for the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, which could mark another major milestone for the project. The technology could revolutionize sports for visually impaired athletes, making sports more accessible for all people.

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