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Over The Horizon

Bat Vision in Top Awards

Leslie Kay, of New Zealand's SonicVision Ltd, is one of 11 worldwide finalists in the Saatchi & Saatchi Innovation in Communication Award, for his development of KASPA, a sonar device that enables blind people to see with sound [Seeing with Sound, October 1995].

The KASPA headset sends and receives sonar signals which can be heard by the user through stereo earpieces. The signals clearly distinguish the different elements of the immediate environment, enabling the blind person to translate the signals into a mind picture of their surroundings as they move.

"KASPA gives me more information about my environment. I can tell when I'm passing shop windows, people, telegraph poles, trees and it therefore makes my travel experience more enjoyable," says blind Auckland businessman Ivan Pivac.

Kay has spent the last 40 years developing a variety of sonar devices to aid the visually impaired. The innovation is based on underwater sonar technology Kay first used as a scientist for the British government during the Cold War. In 1965, while Head of the School of Engineering at Canterbury University, Kay developed "sonic glasses". He was the first engineer to be honoured with a Fellowship of the Royal Society of New Zealand after further developments of this technology.

Kay says he is delighted to receive international recognition for KASPA.

"This is a wonderful moment for SonicVision and for me personally. The encouragement and interest that the Award has already generated means we can build on the growing national and international interest in KASPA and see it being used by more people."

The Saatchi & Saatchi Innovation in Communication Award seeks to recognise and reward innovators whose creations promise to transform communication between people, machines, companies, cultures and countries.

"The finalists represent some of the freshest thinking in many of today's most vital disciplines. They blend biology with computing, interface design with miniaturisation, intuition with machine understanding of humans, mobility with communication, and imagination with engineering," says Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide Creative Director Bob Isherwood.

Buzz Aldrin, former astronaut and awards judge, praised the finalists for their creativity, insight and ideas to conquer new frontiers in communications that promise to improve the way we communicate and understand.

"This is an Awards programme that really pushes the boundaries of what we traditionally think of as communications," says Aldrin. "I believe the innovations we are assessing as judges have the ability to benefit and engage a great number of people on the planet."