Making Table Tennis Accessible for Blind Players #Acoustics23

Making Table Tennis Accessible for Blind Players #Acoustics23

Object tracking combined with a speaker array can provide real-time audio feedback in three dimensions.

SYDNEY, Dec. 6, 2023 – Table tennis has been played for decades as a more accessible version of tennis. The sport is particularly beginner-friendly while maintaining a rich level of competitive play. However, like many sports, it remains inaccessible to people who are blind or have low vision.

Phoebe Peng, an Engineering Honours student at the University of Sydney, is researching ways to allow people with low vision and blindness to play pingpong using sound.

The process uses neuromorphic cameras and an array of loudspeakers, designed to allow players to track the ball and movements based on sound. Peng will present her work Dec. 6 at 10:20 a.m. Australian Eastern Daylight Time, as part of Acoustics 2023 Sydney running Dec. 4-8 at the International Convention Centre Sydney.

table tennis

Motion tracking cameras and an array of linked speakers give real-time audio feedback to table tennis players with low vision. Credit: Phoebe Peng

According to Peng, table tennis makes a perfect test case for this kind of technology.

“The small size of the ball and table, along with the movement of the ball in 3D space, are things that make table tennis difficult to play for those with low vision and complete blindness,” said Peng, who completed the work as part of her Honours thesis. “Making this sport more accessible while also exploring the potential of neuromorphic cameras were my two biggest motivators.”

The neuromorphic cameras Peng employed are ideal for tracking small objects like table tennis balls. Unlike normal cameras that capture complete images of a scene, neuromorphic cameras track changes in an image over time. Using two perfectly positioned cameras, Peng could identify and track a ball in three dimensions in real time. She then fed that data into an algorithm controlling an array of loudspeakers along the sides of the table, which created a sound field matching the position of the ball.

While this system works well, Peng says more experimentation is needed before it will be ready for actual play.

“An ongoing technical challenge is the matter of human perception of sound,” said Peng. “There are limitations on how accurately people can perceive sound localization. What type of sound should be used? Should the sound be continuous? This is a technical challenge we’ll be tackling in the next stage of development.”


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The Acoustical Society of America is joining the Australian Acoustical Society to co-host Acoustics 2023 Sydney. This collaborative event will incorporate the Western Pacific Acoustics Conference and the Pacific Rim Underwater Acoustics Conference.

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Technical program:

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ASA will also share dozens of lay language papers about topics covered at the conference. Lay language papers are summaries (300-500 words) of presentations written by scientists for a general audience. They will be accompanied by photos, audio, and video. Learn more at

ASA will grant free registration to credentialed and professional freelance journalists. If you are a reporter and would like to attend the meeting or virtual press conferences, contact AIP Media Services at For urgent requests, AIP staff can also help with setting up interviews and obtaining images, sound clips, or background information.

The Acoustical Society of America (ASA) is the premier international scientific society in acoustics devoted to the science and technology of sound. Its 7,000 members worldwide represent a broad spectrum of the study of acoustics. ASA publications include The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (the world’s leading journal on acoustics), JASA Express Letters, Proceedings of Meetings on Acoustics, Acoustics Today magazine, books, and standards on acoustics. The society also holds two major scientific meetings each year. See

The Australian Acoustical Society (AAS) is the peak technical society for individuals working in acoustics in Australia. The AAS aims to promote and advance the science and practice of acoustics in all its branches to the wider community and provide support to acousticians. Its diverse membership is made up from academia, consultancies, industry, equipment manufacturers and retailers, and all levels of Government. The Society supports research and provides regular forums for those who practice or study acoustics across a wide range of fields The principal activities of the Society are technical meetings held by each State Division, annual conferences which are held by the State Divisions and the ASNZ in rotation, and publication of the journal Acoustics Australia.

2aSC – Speech: An eye and ear affair!

Pamela Trudeau-Fisette –
Lucie Ménard –
Université du Quebec à Montréal
320 Ste-Catherine E.
Montréal, H3C 3P8

Popular version of poster session 2aSC, “Auditory feedback perturbation of vowel production: A comparative study of congenitally blind speakers and sighted speakers”
Presented Tuesday morning, May 19, 2015, Ballroom 2, 8:00 AM – 12:00 noon
169th ASA Meeting, Pittsburgh
When learning to speak, young infants and toddlers use auditory and visual cues to correctly associate speech movements to a specific speech sound. In doing so, typically developing children compare their own speech and those of their ambient language to build and improve the relationship between what they hear, see and feel, and how to produce it.

In many day-to-day situations, we exploit the multimodal nature of speech: in noisy environments, for instance like in a cocktail party, we look at our interlocutor’s face and use lip reading to recover speech sounds. When speaking clearly, we open our mouth wider to make ourself sound more intelligible. Sometimes, just seeing someone’s face is enough to communicate!

What happens in cases of congenital blindness? Despite the fact that blind speakers learn to produce intelligible speech, they do not quite speak like sighted speakers do. Since they do not perceive others’ visual cues, blind speakers do not produce visible labial movements as much as their sighted peers do.

Production of the French vowel “ou” (similar as in cool) produced by a sighted adult speaker (on the left) and a congenitally blind adult speaker (on the right). We can clearly see that the articulatory movements of the lips are more explicit for the sighted speaker.

Therefore, blind speakers put more weight on what they hear (auditory feedback) than sighted speakers, because one sensory input is lacking. How does that affect the way blind individuals speak?

To answer this question, we conducted an experiment during which we asked congenitally blind adult speakers and sighted adult speakers to produce multiple repetitions of the French vowel “eu”. While they were producing the 130 utterances, we gradually altered their auditory feedback through headphones – without them knowing it- so that they were not hearing the exact sound they were saying. Consequently, they needed to modify the way they produced the vowel in order to compensate for the acoustic manipulation, so they could hear the vowel they were asked to produce (and the one they thought they were saying all along!).

What we were interested in is whether blind speakers and sighted speakers would react differently to this auditory manipulation. The blind speakers not being able to rely on visual feedback, we hypothesized that they would grant more importance on their auditory feedback and, therefore, compensate to a greater extent for the acoustic manipulation.

To explore this matter, we observed the acoustic (produced sounds) and articulatory (lips and tongue movements) differences between the two groups at three distinct time points of the experiment phases.

As predicted, congenitally blind speakers compensated for the altered auditory feedback in a greater extent than their sighted peers. More specifically, even though both speaker groups adapted their productions, the blind group compensated more than the control group did, as if they were integrating the auditory information more strongly. Also, we found that both speaker groups used different articulatory strategies to respond to the applied manipulation: blind participants used their tongue (which is not visible when you speak) more to compensate. This latter observation is not surprising considering the fact that blind speakers do not use their lips (which is visible when you speak) as much as their sighted peers do.

Tags: speech, language, learning, vision, blindness