Will blind people be able to play ping pong?


Known as one of the most popular and fun sports in the world, ping pong, also called table tennis, is known as an extremely simple discipline that can be practiced at an amateur level. Despite its wide availability, however, it remains beyond the reach of the blind and partially sighted, it cannot, for understandable reasons, capture the fast movements of the ball. But it’s by no means certain that this will be the case in the future: a new technology created by a brilliant student at the University of Sydney could actually remove these barriers once and for all by making gaming more inclusive.

Alternative meanings. The engineering researcher in question is Phoebe Peng, and she implemented her idea with a startup led by the University of Sydney. In addition to the usual accessories usually used to play ping pong (table, rackets and ball), his system includes the addition of a series of speakers and cameras capable of using innovative motion detection mechanisms. Through these tools, a person can compensate for the lack of sight and replace it by activating the other senses. The goal, of course, is to determine the exact position of the ball in a fraction of a second and be able to hit it in time.

Futuristic cameras. But how exactly would Peng’s system work? The key lies in the use of so-called neuromorphic cameras, devices that, unlike conventional cameras (designed to “capture” a complete image in a given space), are even able to track the movement of objects in a precise field of view through variations. in brightness, which are detected by special sensors. With the help of a pair of cameras like this, positioned to frame the three-dimensional playing surface, Peng was able to identify and track the ball in real time. As? By combining the data collected by the camera into an algorithm that controlled the speakers located on the sides of the table, creating a sound field corresponding to the exact position of the ball.

A promising prototype. The technology just described seems to have all the requirements to work effectively, but according to its creator, it still needs a series of experiments before it is ready for use. In fact, for the system to work perfectly, it will have to improve some significant technical aspects. The main nodes revolve around finding the type of sound to reproduce.

For example, we ask ourselves which between continuous noise and fragmented noise is better perceived by human hearing. According to Peng, these will be challenges that need to be addressed in the next phase of the project’s development.


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