Humans Are More Like Bats Than You Might Think

It has long been known that bats use echolocation — locating objects by reflected sound — to find their prey, but did you know that we can also use echolocation to identify our surroundings? People who have come to use echolocation regularly are those who are blind. By generating vocal clicks and using those echoes to identify their surroundings, the blind are able to move about unhindered. Echolocation provides information about the space that’s around people that would not be available without vision. It allows them to orient themselves — something like an acoustic flashlight. When we use echolocation — a sort of human sonar — we activate our visual brain, which can provide a sense of space and spatial relationships. While our visual sonar has a strong sense of density and texture, it doesn’t possess the kind of high definition detailed precision that vision has. That’s because there’s a big difference between sound waves and light waves and how the nervous system processes them, as well as how information is sent to the brain through the eye, as opposed to the ear. The blind are now being taught how to develop their echolocation skills, which provides them with freedom of movement and the ability to use human sonar to navigate comfortably and freely through their environment.