Navigating in the dark

2014-08-20

Just thought I'd quickly write a couple of tips to see in the dark, besides having good eyes but those are not required.

Right, so I mentioned this to my friend Raam Dev and he answered with the best explanation I could hope for:

Yeah, I can navigate in the dark really well too, but I think vision and time-to-night-vision plays less of a role than simply using all of your senses and being good at making accurate judgment calls about where things are, where they might be, and then using the way the limited light bounces off objects to get a better feel for the world around you and then using all of that information to build a mental image of the world you're navigating. When I wake up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, which requires walking down a short hallway outside the bedroom, I always walk with my eyes closed. I find that walking in the dark with my eyes closed is easier than walking with my eyes open, because then my brain does all the visualization and my eyes, which may see reflections or other objects, don't fool my mind into second-guessing itself.

And:

Of course, while walking with my eyes closed, I do use my hands as "sensors", to feel walls, the moldings on the walls, the doors, the door handles, the corners of walls, etc. All of that builds a mental image in my mind that I use to navigate.

(Yes I asked for his permission, in case you were wondering.)

So basically, seeing in the night is not all about if you can "see" in the darkness, although if you can that's cool. It's mostly about making the most of the minimal input that you have, mostly visual, because with the rest of the senses the input is certainly not minimal.

But yeah, for example if I have the chance, before navigating a dark room I try to turn on a light for a couple of seconds in order to get a very clear mental image of where all the stuff in the room is. After that it's just about moving through that physical space while continually updating your mental image, essentially.

Ever tried closing your eyes and guessing how many steps it would take to be from one end of the room to the next or ever tried navigating the house with your eyes closed? It's sorta like that.

Remember that you are trying to "see" in an environment where you don't have enough light to see, so with the small inputs you have, just draw a mental image of your environment.

Of course it's recommendable to go slowly, so that if you miscalculate something it doesn't hurt, although with experience this'll start happening less and less.

Just thought I'd share that, hope this helps. :)