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Sucess for University's 'sound' research

University researchers have seen their 'sound' ideas win important successes this summer.

Dr Dean Waters' 'batcane', inspired by the way bats navigate in the dark, has won the 2002 Tomorrow's World Health Innovation Award for its revolutionary way to help blind and visually impaired people move around.

Evacuation alarms based on 'locational sound', which tells people where to find an exit, have been endorsed by the American Council for the Blind, which will campaign to make them mandatory for all public buildings, aircraft and passenger vehicles. The alarms are also being considered for statutory use on passenger ships by the International Maritime Organisation

The batcane, under development by Sound Foresight and Cambridge Consultants, should be on sale by next summer. The cane uses ultrasonic echoes which bounce off objects above, in front and to the side of the user, feeding signals back to enable the user to 'see' their immediate surroundings.

Locational sound alarms, being developed by SoundAlert, use broadband sound, or white noise, the source of which is easy for the human ear to locate. In tests, the system was shown to be as effective as the standard low-level lighting, but with the advantage of not being obscured by smoke.


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