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Nature & Technology

Sonar Helps the Visually Inspaired
Darcy Winslow
Darcy Winslow

As scientific research advances, we are discovering astonishing abilities in living things that offer solutions to problems in many areas of daily life, from the workplace to our hospitals. Darcy Winslow, General Manager of Environmental Business Opportunities for Nike, expresses this truth:

The extent to which the natural world can provide technological solutions for the types of product performance characteristics we must provide are virtually unlimited. Biomimicry still requires exploration, innovation and creativity, but by thinking like or working with a biologist, we must learn to ask a different set of questions and look to nature for inspiration and learning opportunities. (“Biomimicry” Buckminster Fuller Institute;

Many firms are now following a strategy that parallels the one that Winslow set out. It is now possible to see electronic and mechanical engineers working together with biologists.

blind sonar glassesAlready, engineers influenced by bat's sonar have mounted a small sonar unit onto a pair of glasses. After a period of familiarization with the glasses, visually handicapped people are now able to avoid obstacles and even ride bicycles. Still, the system’s designers stress that it will never replace human vision eye or be as functional as that of the bat.

It’s of course impossible for flawless features like this, which even experts have difficulties in replicating, to have appeared by chance. We must not forget that what we refer to here as “features” are actually complex, interconnected systems. The absence or breakdown of only one component means that the whole system fails to work. For example, if bats sent out sound waves but couldn’t interpret the echoes reflected back, they would in fact have no echolocation system at all.

blind sonar caneIn scientific literature, the flawless and complete design that living things display is known as “irreducible complexity.” In other words, certain designs become meaningless and functionless if reduced down to a simpler form. Irreducible complexity in all organisms and their systems demolishes the fundamental idea of the theory of evolution, according to which organisms advance gradually, from the simple towards the complex. If a system can serve no purpose before it reaches its final form, there is no logical reason for it to maintain its existence over millions of years, while it refines and completes itself. A species can survive down the generations only if all its systems are present. No components of a system can afford the luxury of hoping to complete their alleged evolution over time. This clearly proves that when living things first appeared on Earth, they were created with all their structures developed and fully formed, as they are today.
God brought animals and all other living things into being through His superior creation.

sonar blind cane

The 'K' Sonar enables blind persons to perceive their environment through ultrasound and be more mobile in their need to travel. The 'K' Sonar has been designed to be attached to a long cane. It also can be used without the cane as an independent travel aid for those who have learned to use it well in suitable, familiar, recognizable situations.


The Superior Design in the Bat Is Showing Us to Make Our Roads Safer

mercedes sonar sensor
sonar sensor electronic

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh developed a robot that used its smart ears to find its way by means of echolocation, just like a bat. Jose Carmena, of the university’s department of informatics, and his colleagues named this invention “RoBat.” The RoBat was equipped with a central sound source, serving the same function as a bat’s mouth, and two fixed receivers at a distance apart comparable to a bat's ears.

In order to make the best use of echoes, other features of the bat were also borne in mind when designing the RoBat. Bats move their ears to detect interference patterns in the echoes and thus, can easily avoid obstacles in front of them, navigate and hunt down preys. Like bats, the RoBat was also equipped with smart acoustic sensors to make its mechanism as flawless as possible.
Thanks to such nature-inspired sound sensors, it is hoped that one day our roads will be much safer.

In fact, such car manufacturers as Mercedes and BMW already use ultrasonic sensors to help drivers reverse. Thanks to them, the driver is alerted to how close he is to a car or other obstruction behind him. (New Scientist, October 14, 2000, p. 20.)

car bat sonar

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