Brendan Everett

Assessment of Training with vOICe Vision Technology over Time

Brendan Everett

Lots of people travel to London to see the sights. But for his UNH research project, Brendan Everett hoped to hear them.

Everett, a senior psychology major, spent the summer in London studying a technology that allows the blind to "see" with sound. Supported by the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research, his work may discover ways the blind can better envision the world.

"Ideally, it’ll help people live their lives more easily," says Everett, who received a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF).

As part of his work, Everett learned how to use "vOICe Vision" eyewear. Mounted within a pair of high-tech sunglasses, the device includes a tiny camera that constantly converts objects in front of the user into a series of rapid, high-pitched beeps. Over time, users learn to translate the unique beeps into shapes, spaces, and objects that allow users to "see" the world around them.

The ultimate goal is to make translating those sounds automatic; similar to how sighted people instantly comprehend images.

"I’m looking at when and how people can hear it, and see it, without translation,” Everett says. “It’s almost like learning how to speak another language."

Everett credits UNH Professor Andrew Leber and his mentor in England, Professor Michael Proulx, with helping him tackle what at first appeared to be a daunting research challenge.

"Professor Leber was the one who really pushed me to try research," Everett says. "He took me into his lab during my sophomore year and taught me the ropes. He’s very adamant about his undergrads coming up with and running their own experiments."

Proulx, Everett says, took the next step, helping him to develop goals for his SURF project, and methods for reaching them.

"As someone new to research, this has really helped build my confidence in solving problems as they come up with the experiment," Everett says.

The rigorous process, Everett adds, will be great preparation for graduate school, where he hopes to study medicine and, eventually, become an orthopedist.

—Jim Graham