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Johan Isaksson - Navigation by Sound

Johan Isaksson - Navigation by Sound


Describe yourself and your project. How did you get the idea?

My name is Johan Isaksson and I immensely enjoy developing ideas and products. My Leapfrogs idea is to help heavily visually impaired people in navigating their surroundings by using properties of sound, much like bats or dolphins do. The main inspiration came from a man who was playing a popular video game blindfolded, in which he invented some clever strategies using the sound mechanics of the game to beat it: a basic form of echolocation.


Who are you? Previous education/jobs/ experiences etc.

I just concluded my fifth year of studies at Lund University. In my first year I studied physics and chemistry, while I spent the last four years studying for a master in biomedical engineering. I do not have much relevant work experience to speak of, but I have been engaged in several different extracurricular activities these five years. I also have spent much of my other free time in learning new skill sets.


What will you do during these three months? How will you spend the time?

The primary goal is to develop a physical prototype of the product. Secondary goals include finishing a computer simulation to help develop and demonstrate the idea, establish contacts in the end user community and to figure out the steps to take after Leapfrogs. The majority of the time will be spent learning how to implement the idea in real life and to make it as functional as possible.


What do you expect to achieve during Leapfrogs?

I expect to have a functional, real world, prototype that can be used to easily demonstrate the idea to potential investors. I also expect to have the contacts necessary to perform user tests with the intended end users, as well as other interested parties. Hopefully, the product will prove to have as much potential I think it does and I will have a clearly structured plan of how to proceed with it in the future.

Johan Isaksson - Navigation by Sound #2


Tell us what you have done on your project so far during the Leapfrogs time.

I have added functionality to the computer simulation (which is based on the game engine Unity); most notably head-tracking.  I have begun researching into the most viable options for acquiring depth maps in real time, as well as how to simulate the physiological processes the human ear uses to determine a sounds location. I have also constructed a working, although very limited and restricted, real-life prototype using a Microsoft Kinect, a Google Cardboard and a modified version of the computer simulation.


Has everything gone according to the plan? Has anything unexpected occurred? Has something been easier/harder than expected?

Much of the implementation (head-tracking, Kinect etc.) has actually gone a lot smoother than expected. There also seems to exist a lot of solutions to acquire the depth map that works, both in real-time and with limited processing power. A snag though is that these solution, almost exclusively, are very expensive – ranging from around 10.000 SEK to 70.000 SEK – which both is to much for prototyping purposes but also exceeds the desired end-cost of the product. A tailor-made solution is quite possibly needed in the future.


What will you focus on during the remaining time? Will you follow your original plan or has anything changed along the way? 

The current step is to reimplement the existing prototype onto a Raspberry Pi, stripping the game engine in the process, in order to make it portable (it still will be tethered in the form of required power cords for the time being though). After that I hope to be able to construct the proper, physiologically aligned, directional sounds. A lot of testing and iterative improvements should follow, to finally reach a fully-operational prototype, which could be used to effectively demonstrate the product to potential investors.

Johan Isaksson - Navigation by Sound #3


How did you experience the three months?

I have found them highly productive and enriching. Just the fact that you, in contrast to the ordinary school year, have the ability to give a project your undivided attention for an extended period of time has been very helpful.

I spent the majority of my time at the World Trade Center in Malmö where all leapfroggers were offered to work during the summer. Far from all of us choose to work there, but we who did had a really good atmosphere in which to exchange ideas and give feedback.


What has been hardest/most enjoyable?

The hardest has almost exclusively been when a, lesser or greater, milestone has been reached and I have to decide what to do/focus on next. What will have the largest impact on my project and be the most time efficient?

Related to this, it was always immensely enjoyable when a milestone was reached; from an overhaul of the sound design to the first time I was able to fire up the working prototype.  Also the process of figuring out solutions to problems which emerged is something I definitely liked.


Did it go as expected? Will you continue working on your project in the future?

I managed to reach the goals I set up for the summer, completing the simulation and developing a real life prototype, so the end result is what I hoped for and expected, although the ways in which it was reached was not always.

I am absolutely going to continue working on the project. I am not entirely sure what the next step will be yet and when I will be able to perform it, but I still strongly believe in it’s potential and I still enjoy developing it further.


What would you say is the most important lesson learnt while working on your project?

Probably to dwell less on things that will not be of much importance until far later down the road. To instead work on the things that will make your ideas so much closer to reality. For example, I am fairly sure I spent to much time in the later stages of the simulation development on non-essential features instead of starting working on the prototype.


Do you have any tips to other ”new” entrepreneurs?

Do not be afraid to learn new skills as it is often easier than it seems and will help you both in present and future projects (maybe in unexpected ways). And, while you are at it, learn the skills that will make you able to test your ideas. The ability to come up with a solution and to actually implement and test it yourself – in whatever rudimentary form – is insanely helpful and what I have relied on the absolute most during this project.