This App Uses Audio to Guide Blind Photographers

While blind people can’t enjoy photographs the same way sighted people do, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to take them

Image: CarbonNYC

While blind people can’t enjoy photographs the same way sighted people do, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to take them. Or at least that’s the premise of this new app that helps blind people position their cameras better through sound cues.

Researchers recently asked blind and partially sighted people what the hardest part of getting a photo right was. Armed with the knowledge of exactly what their sampling of blind people wanted help with, the researchers made an app, which solves a few key problems that blind photographers have.

The first is locating the shutter button. In the app, there’s no button—an upward swiping motion on the screen takes a picture. The app also detects the number of faces it sees and speaks that number out loud. It also uses audio to help the photographer move the camera and get the subjects in focus.

To help photographers recognize the shots, the app records sound, too. New Scientist explains:

This is to help with photo organising and sharing – and is used as an aide-memoire as to who is in shot. The user can choose to save this sound file along with the time and date, and GPS data that is translated into audio giving the name of the neighbourhood, district or city the shot was taken in.

While sighted people might not understand why a blind person would want to take photographs, the results can be quite incredible. Take this gallery of photos taken by a blind woman. Sonia Sobertas, a blind woman who paints with light in her photographs, is part of the Seeing With Photography group of people who want to create images despite being blind. The New York Times explained Sobertas’s reason for taking photographs:

For seeing individuals, it may seem bizarre that Ms. Soberats dedicates so much time to an art she cannot fully appreciate. Why not a more tactile pursuit, like sculpting? But Ms. Soberats said she savored her work through the eyes of others.

“The more difficult the photo, the more interesting and the more rewarding when you complete it and it’s good,” she said. “To be able to realize and obtain something that at the end everybody praises, it’s very satisfactory.”

The researchers developing the app want to give their users that same experience and provide one more way for them to enjoy the same activities as everybody else.

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