This Is What a Dolphin 'Sees'

'The 3D print of a human being left us all speechless'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2015 4:22 PM CST
This Is What a Dolphin 'Sees'
This is what a dolphin named Amaya "saw" when she used echolocation to look at a researcher.   (

Great news for anyone who's ever wanted to know what it's like to be a dolphin. Researchers have figured out how to see what dolphins "see" when they use echolocation, printing 2D and 3D images of a number of objects—including a human, NBC News reports. "Seeing the 3D print of a human being left us all speechless," Jack Kassewitz, lead researcher and founder of, says in a press release. "For the first time ever, we may be holding in our hands a glimpse into what cetaceans see with sound." Researchers were spurred to create the images after realizing dolphins listening to recordings of echolocation could figure out what object was being pinged with 92% accuracy.

Researchers used a piece of equipment called a CymaScope—which "imprints sonic vibrations on the surface of ultra pure water"—to create images out of echolocation recordings, according to the press release. “When a dolphin scans an object with its high frequency sound beam, each short click captures a still image, similar to a camera taking photographs," says John Reid, inventor of the CymaScope. While the images created are mostly silhouettes, researchers believe it's possible dolphins' brains can create more detailed images out of echolocation than current human technology can reveal, Discovery reports. They also hypothesize dolphins can share echolocation images with each other through some sort of "sono-pictorial language." (Porpoises use sound like a flashlight.)

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