What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell Us

A picture used to be worth a thousand words.

Marc Sanchez Apr 26, 2012

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.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.