THE DISCRIPTIVE CAMERA TAKES STORIES NOT PICTURES

by Miryam Muller in


New York University graduate Matt Richardson had a flash of genius and decided a picture should indeed tell a thousand words - quite literally.

Meet Descriptive Camera, a DIY camera capable of capturing a scene with text rather than a photo.

Think of your typical digital camera--once you press the shutter, it will give you an image plus a small amount of metadata, like the camera's settings, the time, and perhaps where you took the photo. The Descriptive Camera also uses metadata, but it looks at the actual content of the image to describe the scene textually instead of visually.

Matt made the camera as a way of finding better methods to catalog and search images once they are filed. Now, you will probably be wondering how a camera can translate an image into text and the technology behind it, but actually, most of the tricky work is done by humans.

Using Amazon Mechanical Turk, every time a photo is taken by the DIY camera, some coding will send the image data to a willing worker, who looks at the photo and writes up a description of what is happening in the frame. The text is then sent back in six minutes or less and printed out on a thermal printer, polaroid style. While the image-to-text transformation is processing, an amber LED light will flash above the camera.

Descriptive Camera would be great for writing captions underneath photos taken with a normal camera, although some of the descriptions that come back are slightly vague or unimaginative, depending who writes them.

Visit Matt's website for tutorial help, more text examples and more images of the camera and printer setup.