Sound content

In High Earth Orbit, a post pointing to a wonderful new mashup: Freesound, free geotagged (!) ambient sounds from around the world. With a network link to Google Earth from the get-go.

Now the race is on to find a place that’s in both Freesound and this QuickTime VR database for the complete immersive experience.

All this raises an interesting angle though. We sighted people get all impressed by the spinning globe on our screen, but what’s in it for the visually impaired? Not much, at the moment, but the same was the case for the internet circa 1995. Gradually, navigation techniques for the blind were developed for conventional websites, and there is no reason why spatial locations should be any harder to convert.

On the contrary, it might be much easier. If locations on Google Earth were to one day emit distinctive sounds from distinctive directions for a direction-aware headset, with loudness indicating distance, for example, and with position labels read out, Google Earth the browser is potentially a far more intuitive environment to navigate for information gathering than the old-skool website, because spatial awareness is something that is common to everyone — no sight needed.

3 thoughts on “Sound content”

  1. The internet was probably never friendlier to blind browsers than it was in 1995. HTML was very simple, no one was printing images of words, or anything like that, and enough people, both sighted and blind, were using the text-based Lynx browser that most people making websites made sure to make them Lynx-friendly. It was really when Netscape started taking off and replacing Mosaic that Lynx got left in the dust and the blind started getting shafted.

  2. I agree there isn’t a lot that blind people can do with the google maps/earth. However, on freesound I try to be as visually-impaired friendly as I can. Normally all the file preview players can be operated by keyboard – for example!

    Thanks for the post on freesound though!

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