Seeing in the Dark: Developing Ninja-like Echolocation Skills

I’m training myself to echolocate — I’m learning see in the dark, using sound!

The good news for dorks like me is even if I can’t develop superpowers by sheer willpower alone, technology can augment my skills the rest of the way!


I built a pair of glasses to make the appropriate clicks.  The walls and objects around me reflect the sound back, and by paying attention to the sound that gets reflected, I’m learning to see using only my ears!

I replace one of the lenses of this old pair of 3D-glasses (appropriately) with the speaker, and there are a bunch of control electronics down the left side of the frame.


Echolocation, and human perception is amazing. For example, Ben Underwood is the most astounding and talented human echolocator to have ever lived.  I saw a documentary about him, and was instantly captivated.  The video at the bottom is the direct inspiration for my project:

Why use all those fancy electronics when you can just click with your mouth?

Well, I thought building the glasses would be fun too.  It’s tricky to make everything fit onto the frame of a pair of glasses, which is kind of cool.  And this way I get to play around with programming different sounds — I can change the audio that comes out of the speaker, anytime I like.

Currently the AVR kicks out an impulse, just a solid and very quick “on”.  By my understanding of sound, the impulse contains all possible frequencies, and should therefore give me all kinds of reflections back.  Or put another way, I don’t quite know yet what soundwave shape is best, but this one sounds like a pretty good click to me!

Does it work?

It should be a little louder to really work well, but I’m definitely aware of the sonic reflections!


Here is Ben Underwood:



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5 responses to “Seeing in the Dark: Developing Ninja-like Echolocation Skills

  1. carmel

    holy shit! this is incredible! holy shit! how is the training going for you?


  2. jay

    you are beautiful and creative! i miss you a shitload! are you coming home for the winter at all?

  3. LP

    Hi Star,
    I think it’s better having the speaker in the middle, to have a symmetrical “image” (your ears are detecting the difference in time it takes for the return). As a biologist I taught about this a long time ago, but never build something. Isn’t Dan Kish building something like that? I read something about I think.
    By the way, greetings from Germany. I admire your ideas.

  4. awesomeness :)

    i am thinking about integrating RFID antenna with one side of the eye frame. but then monocle might be a better form factor…