Everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words, but not every picture tells you in actual words what has been captured, but a new camera by New York University student Matt Richardson does, he’s taken two kinds of technology and meshed them together to produce something novel, a digital camera that automatically prints out a description in words of whatever is in the picture. CNET says the idea is truly novel, while Vision Systems Design insists that camera is actually very practical. The Daily Mail says it’s cool, though wonders if there really are any practical uses for such an odd camera.
CNET explains how it works. First, Richardson took an ordinary digital camera and placed it in a larger case. Next, he inserted some hardware and software that grab an image of the picture just taken from the digital camera, which is already in digital format and sends it via text message to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, with a caption requesting that a description be typed of what is seen in the picture (less than a dozen characters please). The camera then waits for a reply. Once received, the message is relayed to a tiny dot-matrix printer that he has installed in the camera case, where it is printed out for whoever took the picture.
Mechanical Turk is a crowd sourcing service provided by Amazon where people who want some simple thing done for them for a small price and other people go and actually do the work for a small payoff. The person who wants something done gets it done quickly and cheaply, and the workers make money by doing multiple tasks over a long period of time. So successful has the program become that the camera Richardson put together can provide a printed description on average within just six minutes.
While the Daily Mail doubts its general practicality, it does acknowledge that for some applications it could be truly use, mostly for those that are run by computers. Imagine they say, if every picture posted on Facebook by anyone also had a good description. Others searching for whatever is in the picture would find every occurrence (where permission has been granted of course) that appears in Facebook, along with source links; same thing with Flickr or all the other image hosting sites. Search engines could compile all the text and store it away for use by search engines, giving searchers more to work with when looking for something in particular.
The camera isn’t for sale just yet, but Richardson says if interest remains high, he’ll look into figuring out a way to bring his idea to market.