New imagery tech brings photography to the blind

The tactile photography is set to transform the experiences of blind users and bring them closer to those of their visually-abled counterparts.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Kenya's blind community can now feel photography and experience what their visually-abled compatriots see thanks to a tactile photography innovation that promises to boost inclusion.

The immersive technology lined up a Kenyan debut in October this year utilises elevated prints which exhibit features such as soundscapes, audio descriptions as well as braille for a perceptible experience that helps users connect with the images and the stories they tell.

The technology showcased during the Gitex Africa 2024 expo hosted in Morocco a fort night ago impressed the blind and the partially blind attendees.

Dr Hamid Nabil, Morocco’s first-ever blind student to achieve a PhD termed the experience inspiring, noting that the world of imagery had been shrouded in mystery for many people living with visual difficulties.

“I believe that this initiative can give an approximatively clear view in a way that will make people discover the world of image in a way that is exclusively adapted to their situation and to their needs,” Dr Nabil the Business Daily during the expo.

He added, “The idea can be a source of inspiration in the sense that it can be integrated in different areas, especially within our educational systems. It can actually pave the way to future undertakings related to the production and development of curriculum programmes that are exclusively prepared for visually impaired students.”

In an interview with the Business Daily on the sidelines of the expo, Canon, the tech multinational behind the innovation, said the tactile photography is set to transform the experiences of blind users and bring them closer to those of their visually-abled counterparts.

“It will give people who have difficulties in seeing a chance to feel photography and experience what those of us with well-functioning eyes can see,” said Canon’s business-to-consumer (B2C) business director Rashad Ghani.

So, how exactly does it work?

Mr Ghani explained that descriptions of pictures taken are translated into braille which further eases the comprehension for people who have difficulty in seeing. They can also touch the elevated print and feel or sense what exactly is captured.

“This new service opens up the world of photography and enables more blind and partially sighted people to experience the emotive stories through the physical touch of these iconic images. It is to see the possibilities of textured print and to see in action how technology can make art more accessible for people with sight loss,” said Mr Ghani.

Canon has already tested the innovation in Europe and debuted it in Morocco. Mr Ghani said the technology is set for distribution to other prime markets with Kenya being earmarked for October this year.

“We chose Gitex as an opportunity to showcase and collaborate with the organisers so that the launch is with a bigger audience. So from here now, we will move to different countries and we should be in Kenya by October.”

At the expo, Canon’s exhibition featured works from its ambassadors across the globe as well as from world-renowned photographers, with visually impaired attendees expressing their reactions after interacting with the technology for the first time.

Canon has however left markets guessing on the pricing of the service, with Mr Ghani only stating that charges will vary across different markets due to among other factors, fluctuating taxation regimes in different countries.

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