A Descriptive Camera

When I first read about the Descriptive Camera, I thought, “Smells fishy to me. I’m not falling for that Invisible Camera routine.” The Invisible Camera, you may recall, was an extremely well-made hoax about a “revolutionary” new camera. It was so successful (at least in the spirit of War of the Worlds or the Emperor’s New Clothes) that eventually they had to post a long response to explain why they wanted to trick people. Even when they tried to explain it gently, it seemed like an elaborate cruelty joke. What they said amounted to this: We wanted you to believe so that you could experience a childish sense of wonder and delight. Oh yeah, and when we burst your bubble, you get to experience a childish sense of powerlessness, humiliation, and forlorn aspiration. Ha ha!

Anyway, the Descriptive Camera, as far as I can tell, really exists and really works. Here’s what it does. You push the button and it provides a prose description of whatever is in the field of view. So you might get a snapshot like this:

	-----------------------------------
	| ------------------------------- |
	| |                             | |
	| |   This is a faded picture   | |
	| |      of a dilapidated       | |
	| |         building.           | |
	| |                             | |
	| |                             | |
	| ------------------------------- |
	|                                 |
	|                                 |
	-----------------------------------
 

Is it real? And if so, how can it possibly work? If this was the Flintstones, there would be a little dinosaur in there carving the words onto a stone tablet. The secret is that there is a person inside the camera. The person is provided by Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Nifty solution! But now I want a prose cam that has various Hipstamatic-style filters. Switch it to Thomas Hardy and you might get this:

	-----------------------------------
	| ------------------------------- |
	| |                             | |
	| |   A Saturday afternoon in   | |
        | |   November is approaching   | |
        | |   the time of twilight, and | |
        | |   the vast tract of         | |
        | |   unenclosed wild known as  | |
        | |   Egdon Heath embrowns      | |
        | |   itself moment by moment.  | |
	| |                             | |
	| ------------------------------- |
	|                                 |
	|                                 |
	-----------------------------------
 

And by the way, the Star Chamber was way ahead of the curve on this one. We had a ProseCam TI-2100 installed years ago. I’ll plug it in again so you can take a look at what it sees.

3 thoughts on “A Descriptive Camera”

  1. What a Hardy-esque cracker.

    “…and it looks as though he’s going for the sentence!…”

  2. Yes, that was indeed Python bait, and well done sir. “It looks like Tess of the D’Urbervilles all over again.”

  3. This reminds me of an art project from SIGGRAPH a few years ago – a “blind camera.” It’s a smooth black brick with one button, no viewfinder, and no lens.

    Push the button and it uses the onboard GPS to find a nearby photo from Flickr. It may also have been smart enough to match time of day and season.

    As art projects go, it was thought-provoking. On my next trip to Japan, I was constantly wondering why I was bothering to take any photos when there were far superior examples of the same subject matter on Flickr.

    So I made sure to get more images of my wife.

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