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Descriptive Camera Only Prints Text, Proves Pictures Are Not Really Worth a Thousand Words

by Lambert Varias
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A few years ago we featured PhotoSketch (now called Sketch2Photo), a program that can turn sketches with labels into a picture. Here’s something nearly opposite of that: a camera that outputs a text description of the image instead of the image itself. It’s like Instagram for bookworms.

descriptive camera by matt richardson

Inventor Matt Richardson simply calls it the Descriptive Camera (soon to be called Photo2Text). The technology behind it is not really as cutting edge as PhotoSketch, although the concept certainly is. When an image is taken using the Descriptive Camera, it sends the digital photo to a person, who will then describe what’s in the photo. Richardson uses Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service to find people who will describe the photo. Finally, the camera’s built-in thermal printer will print out the description. I’m not sure where the digital image goes, so there could be a privacy issue there. All in all this “development” process takes 3 to 6 minutes.

descriptive camera by matt richardson 2

The camera can also be switched to “accomplice mode”, which can be used to send an instant message to another person so they can describe the photo. So for example instead of asking a worker who doesn’t know a thing about you, you could ask your mom to describe a picture of you when you were a baby. Or you’d send yourself pictures taken while you’re drunk for your sober self to try to piece together later.

So why would anyone want a description of a picture instead of the picture itself? Richardson doesn’t actually want just the text. Rather, he envisions future digital cameras to add this kind of valuable information in the metadata of digital images, not just the camera that took the picture, its resolution, ISO and other technical stuff.

Not only will this make it possible to search for a picture by describing what’s in it, but it will also preserve the human element of the photo. Like how much your friends used to love hanging out at your house, or how really they only went there because you had a Famicom because man you were quite the weirdo in 5th grade, or that you absolutely suck at taking pictures in general. That kind of stuff gets lost in time you know. For good reason. What was I talking about again?

[Matt Richardson via Cnet]

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