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Blind Ping Pong? Acoustic Technology Opens Up Table Tennis For Visually Impaired

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Blind people could soon be able to play TABLE TENNIS - thanks to state-of-the-art acoustic technology. PHOTO BY JOSH SORENSON/PEXELS 

Blind people could soon be able to play TABLE TENNIS – thanks to state-of-the-art acoustic technology.

Object tracking combined with a speaker array can provide real-time audio feedback in three dimensions, say scientists.

Like many sports, table tennis currently remains inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision.

But Phoebe Peng, an Engineering Honours student at the University of Sydney in Australia, is researching ways to allow people with low vision and blindness to play ping pong using sound.

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The process uses neuromorphic cameras and an array of loudspeakers, designed to allow players to track the ball and movements based on sound.

Peng says table tennis makes a “perfect” test case for such technology.

Motion tracking cameras and an array of linked speakers give real-time audio feedback to table tennis players who are blind or have low vision. PHOTO BY PHOEBE PENG/SWNS 

She said: “The small size of the ball and table, along with the movement of the ball in 3D space, are things that make table tennis difficult to play for those with low vision and complete blindness.

“Making this sport more accessible while also exploring the potential of neuromorphic cameras were my two biggest motivators.”

She said the neuromorphic cameras she employed are ideal for tracking small objects such as table tennis balls.

Unlike normal cameras that capture complete images of a scene, neuromorphic cameras track changes in an image over time.

Motion tracking cameras and an array of linked speakers give real-time audio feedback to table tennis players who are blind or have low vision. PHOTO BY PHOEBE PENG/SWNS 

Using two perfectly positioned cameras, Peng could identify and track a ball in three dimensions in real-time.

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She then fed that data into an algorithm controlling a range of loudspeakers along the sides of the table, which created a sound field matching the position of the ball.

While the system works well, Peng says more experimentation is needed before it will be ready for actual play.

She added: “An ongoing technical challenge is the matter of human perception of sound.

“There are limitations on how accurately people can perceive sound localization.

“What type of sound should be used? Should the sound be continuous? This is a technical challenge we’ll be tackling in the next stage of development.”

She is due to present her findings at the Acoustics 2023 conference in Sydney.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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