A Blind Teacher Using Echolocation to Navigate the World

posted by Jason Kottke Jan 26, 2024

Echo is a fascinating and poignant short film about Daniel Kish, a blind man who uses echolocation to move about in the world and teaches others how to do the same. Using clicks, he and his students can go on hikes, ride bikes, and skateboard down the sidewalk.

If I click at a surface, it answers back. It’s like asking a question: what are you and where are you? I can get through echolocation a really rich, palpable, satisfying, 3-dimensional, fuzzy geometry.

The filmmakers worked with Kish to record the sound as a person would hear it in real life and make visualizations to help us see what Kish is hearing.

During the early production stages of the filmmakers Ben Wolin and Michael Minahan’s short documentary, “Echo,” they wanted their audience to understand what this skill truly meant. They worked closely with Daniel, a self-described audiophile, to record sound for the documentary through a special microphone that works similarly to a pair of human ears — a tool that Daniel also uses for teaching. “You record the audio like you would hear it,” Minahan told me. Because of this process, the sound design and auditory experience has a vivid, spatial quality that’s rare with a film of this scale. The gears on Daniel’s bike creak and whine with a closeness that makes it feel like we’re riding right next to him, while dogs bark, wind blows, and cars pass in the background. It’s through these rich sounds that we’re immersed in and transported to Daniel’s world.

Make some time for this short film…it’s really great.

See also The Blind Skateboarder.

Discussion  3 comments

PDX Phil

It really is. Thank you. ❤️

Caroline G.

He was also interviewed for an episode of This American Life back in 2015.

Jason KottkeMOD

I first posted about Kish in 2011. Take that TAL!

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