A picture used to be worth a thousand words.

Now you might get about 20. When Matt Richardson’s prototype camera takes a picture, the image is described rather than seen. You know, in words. Richardson calls his invention a “descriptive camera,” and at first glance, it looks like it might get a big hit if you ran across it in a museum. The camera prints a description of your picture on a piece of paper that looks a little like a cash register receipt. Art aside, Richardson thinks a description of what we’re looking at could be really useful. From his site: “information about who is in each photo, what they're doing, and their environment could become incredibly useful in being able to search, filter, and cross-reference our photo collections.” For  now the descriptions come via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk program, where anybody can sign up to do small tasks for small bits of cash. When an image is “captured” on the descriptive camera, it’s sent out in a Mechanical Turk task that looks for anybody willing to describe it. The typical turnaround time for pictures varies. Richardson says that, when he sets the price of a description at $1.25, “results are returned typically within 6 minutes and sometimes as fast as 3 minutes.”
Yeah, so that’s kind of a lot of money to pay for a description that might or might not match your picture written by a complete stranger, but it’s a start.

About the author

Marc Sanchez is the technical director and associate producer for Marketplace Tech Report where he is responsible for shaping the sound of the show.
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