What It’s Like To Be A Bat

Researchers on echolocation are trying to tap what they think is our untapped potential to learn what it’s like to be a bat.

A team of researchers from the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) has shown scientifically that human beings can develop echolocation, the system of acoustic signals used by dolphins and bats to explore their surroundings. Producing certain kinds of tongue clicks helps people to identify objects around them without needing to see them, something which would be especially useful for the blind.

“In certain circumstances, we humans could rival bats in our echolocation or biosonar capacity”, Juan Antonio Martínez, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Superior Polytechnic School of the UAH, tells SINC. The team led by this scientist has started a series of tests, the first of their kind in the world, to make use of human beings’ under-exploited echolocation skills.

Martínez has told SINC that his team is now working to help deaf and blind people to use this method in the future, because echoes are not only perceived by their ear, but also through vibrations in the tongue and bones. “For these kinds of people in particular, and for all of us in general, this would be a new way of perceiving the world”.

Another of the team’s research areas involves establishing the biological limits of human echolocation ability, “and the first results indicate that detailed resolution using this method could even rival that of sight itself”. In fact, the researchers started out by being able to tell if there was someone standing in front of them, but now can detect certain internal structures, such as bones, and even “certain objects inside a bag”.

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