Photography for the Blind

August 19, 2008 By Paul Wagorn

Sometimes the ideas that initially sound the most absurd are the most brilliant ones. Suppose for a moment that someone told you that they were going design a camera for blind people. Well, a design team at Samsung has done just that.

My first thought was “Why?” … My second thought was “ok, but…How?”

The team, led by Designer Chueh Lee have developed what might be the worlds first camera for the blind. It’s called the “Touch Sight Camera”, and Mr Lee says this:

“Touch Sight is a revolutionary digital camera designed for visually impaired people. Simple features make it easy to use, including a unique feature which records sound for three seconds after pressing the shutter button. The user can then use the sound as reference when reviewing and managing the photos. Touch Sight does not have an LCD but instead has a lightweight, flexible Braille display sheet which displays a 3D image by embossing the surface, allowing the user to touch their photo. The sound file and picture document combine to become a touchable photo that is saved in the device and can be uploaded to share with others–and downloaded to other Touch Sight cameras.”

Incredible. The camera actually works best when the Braille panel is held against the forehead as it also helps stabilize the camera. Chueh mentioned that in instructor who teaches a photography course for the visually impaired found that “the visually impaired have no problems estimating distances, since their sense of hearing is especially sharp. Every rustle of wind in the trees catches their attention and can be used to judge distances.”

“A camera was something prohibited, I never dreamed I’d hold one,” says visually impaired photography student Karina Murninaks. “My parents told me that to take pictures you had to be able to see, that I couldn’t touch the camera. And I always loved hearing the click-click, and at last I can do the click myself. At first it was like a toy, but now I’m really taking photographs.”

The 3 seconds of audio recording help convey distance and also impart the sense of “being there” that a normally-sighted person would feel when looking at the photograph.

This isn’t the first device that helps blind people “see”. There is this device that uses sound, this device that uses touch sense on the forehead and even this device that helps people see with their tongue.

There are no definite plans to bring the device to the market yet, but I sincerely hope that Mr. Lee’s collegues at Samsung decide to put the resources into this evolutionary device. The rest of the design team includes Liqing Zou, Ning Xu, Saiyou Ma, Dan Hu, Fengshun Jiang and Zhenhui Sun.

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Reader Comments

Wow, this technology is so amazing. I have an aunt who's visually impaired so I have an affection for those who cannot see. Before, braille was already technological breakthrough that is very helpful for the blind. Years ago, there was already a braille-SMS, and now, Photography for the blind. Let there be more aides for the visually impaired to help them live like normal.
Posted by Mike Jordon on December 9, 2011

Evidently there was at one time a talking camera, too. Speaking as someone who can just about see the display on a digital camera but not the menus, I would welcome the return of this idea. Computers can talk, phones can talk, even Christmas cards can talk, so let's please have a talking camera!

The BAT!
Posted by Vince Thacker on November 18, 2008

I am a teacher at a school for the blind and would absolutely love the opportunity to try these cameras out with my students!
Posted by Bruce on September 25, 2008

I'd love to put this to the test!
Posted by Peter Lloyd on August 19, 2008

The reference to seeing with your tongue is especially interesting
Posted by David on August 19, 2008

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