3 Reasons to Love Audiophotography

Based on a published interview for the Graphic Arts Magazine. Read the full article here.

Guest blogger David Frohlich is an author and Professor of Interaction Design at the University of Surrey. He has contributed numerous studies and patents to the field of digital photography, augmented paper, and memorabilia in his fourteen years as a Senior Research Scientist at HP Labs and during his tenure as the Director of the Digital World Research Centre at the University of Surrey.

Simply put — audiophotographs are just ‘photographs with sound’. I pitch it as a new media form between photos and video. So if you think about slowing down the frame rate of video you get to the design space I’ve been playing in, which is a sequence of images with sound of various types. It’s sonically richer than video, in the sense that it can incorporate the ambient sounds that video does, as well as voiceover, storytelling, and associating photos with music.

  1. In developing communities, we’ve thought of it as an audio-visual communication tool for people with low levels of literacy because you don’t need text.

You can, of course, play back audiophotos just like video on screen, so they are compatible with screen-based technology. But one of the intriguing things is that you can also play back sound from print. Now with advances in printed electronics, you can begin to print circuits and embed chips in paper and books. More commonly (and you’re seeing this come into production now) is augmented reality with optical recognition. QR codes are an example, as well as Blippar or Layar [apps] that actually recognize the image itself. That’s not embedding sound into the paper but tagging the paper so you can then fetch the sound from somewhere else. It’s surprising how many technologies make this possible.

For example, if you imagine a beautiful photobook memory keepsake, you could have a whole range of sounds linked to that album and the sounds could, technically, just play in the room when you open the book. You can’t do that very easily with commercial technology today; [instead] you’d have to hold a mobile phone over the print to link to the sounds and this doesn’t provide the same experience

  1. Some of the strong applications are educational books for kids, as well as language learning where you need to hear the text and the sound of language. Furthermore, anything where people might have some kind of disability in one domain that you can compensate for with sound is another application. So if people are visually impaired, some parts of it could read aloud to them. Also, cross-language pieces such as leaflets would benefit from this technology, where adjunct information or additional languages could be read aloud.

I once thought of it like early movies and “talkies” because it seemed to be a similar value proposition. If you added sound to silent movies, why not add sound to silent photographs? So I still think there’s something amazing about reinventing the photograph by having this other layer. Many people feel that’s already been done with video, but there are more creative and interesting things you can do with audiophotos sonically and also, you can’t really print video.

  1. There are already about twenty audiophoto apps and twenty audiophoto narrative apps. Audiophoto apps are mainly for annotating photos with sound, usually with a single sound clip and they’re highly suitable for sending to other people. Audiophoto narratives have more to do with digital storytelling. Different companies have promoted it in different contexts but it’s essentially like making an audiophoto album, where you can browse through or watch through a sequence.

To find out more, see examples of David’s work or contact him directly.

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About the Author : Kris Henley

Communications and Outreach for Surrey Business School's Centre for the Digital Economy, a newly-founded research centre to explore the implications of the Digital Economy for business, government and society.