Daniel Kish is the blind, real-life batman
If bats can do it, why can’t humans?
Daniel Kish, 45, has been making headlines everywhere by navigating the world by bouncing sound off of the objects surrounding him. He can ride a bike and go hiking without anyone’s help just by clicking his tongue and waiting for the sounds to reflect back, giving him much independence and freedom to do what he wants.
He became completely blind due to retinal cancer when he was 13 months old. When he became a teenager, he began to resent life as his hearing grew more sensitive due to his inability to see. Then at one point, he found a way to sense his surroundings through sound. This is when Daniel started to see the world with his ears.
CNN aired his life on Thursday for the world to see how Kish developed his own system of “human echolocation” to detect objects in the environment via sensing echoes from those objects. He identifies objects by clicking his tongue, which in turn propels sound waves that bounce off of the objects they hit. This process is very similar to how bats locate and identify what is around them.
He demonstrated how this principle works in front of the camera. CNN followed him out onto a dock and asked him about the view in front of him. Kish made clicking sounds with his tongue and then, like magic, began to “see” a boat about 50 feet (approx. 15.24m) away. He said it is difficult to measure the exact distance through the echoing sounds although he can determine the approximate distance, material, and size of surrounding objects by creating a mental picture in his head.
Kish says that this unique ability is not limited and that the human brain is already partly wired to perform this same process bats undergo, but the capacity to do so degenerates as the eyes develop. He states that with practice, any blind person can utilize human echolocation. He founded the non-profit organization, “World Access for the Blind” (WAB) in 2000 and began teaching over 500 blind children how to see with their ears. According to reports, the majority of these children displayed positive results, despite the varying degrees of achievement.
But scientists have not shown a favorable response, with skeptics claiming that Kish is only seeking attention. Out of the 1,300 organizations Kish contacted, only 10 have shown interest in what he is implementing.
Yet Kish only strives to go forward. He presented human echolocation to PopTech, a non-profit research group founded by Apple CEO John Sculley and other figures. PopTech holds conferences every October and focuses on new ideas in science and technology. At this year’s conference, Kish said he is aware his method isn’t perfect, but he will not stop at efforts to improve this process of echolocation. He also declared that his dedication to helping the visually impaired demonstrates there are no boundaries when it comes to overcoming a disability.