We aim to realize a future where everyone can share the moment. To achieve this goal, we are deeply committed to the "With My Eyes" project, which aims to expand the possibilities for creativity by enabling everyone to take photos and videos clearly with the help of a camera.
We interviewed Ibuki Ban, a freshman at Hiratsuka School for the Blind (in December 2022), who used Sony's camera combined with a viewfinder employing laser retinal projection technology from QD Laser, Inc., as well as Sumino Sato, who oversees UI/UX design and accessibility promotion of digital cameras at Sony Imaging Products & Solutions Business Headquarters and Manabu Nakamura of the Visual Information Device Division of QD Laser, Inc.
Nakamura: We heard from people with low vision that when taking pictures, it is difficult for them to focus on the subject, so they take a few random shots with their smartphone and later zoom in on the pictures they took to check them. I felt that this would not allow them to enjoy the true pleasure of photography, which is to "capture the moment that inspires you". The "With My Eyes" project was started with the idea that if Sony and our technologies were combined, this would enable more people to enjoy photography.
Sato: We are promoting accessibility with the aim of supporting people's creativity through technology. When it comes to cameras, we have been working to provide more people, including people with disabilities, with the experience of "taking," "seeing," and "sharing" pictures with a camera. During our activities, we have learned that the experience we provide with our camera is based on many assumptions and stereotypes, and that these lead to various challenges. We were approached by QD Laser as we were considering different ways we could help people of all walks of life, and together we wanted to help people with visual impairments to expand their creative possibilities when they use a camera.
Sato: Since I am a UI/UX designer for compact and interchangeable lens cameras, I would love to hear Ban-san's thoughts on using the camera for the first time. What was the experience like for you?
Ban: I was amazed at how clearly I could see what I wanted to see. I have low vision since I'm a person with albinism, and in addition to having poor eyesight, I find light very dazzling, so I have to wear special sunglasses when I go outside. But when I put the sunglasses on, my vision appears greenish, so I had an internal conflict of wanting to take off my sunglasses and see the world with my own eyes, but not being able to do that... but with this device, I am able to see the world as it is. The first time I used the camera, I was moved by the variety of scenes I saw through the viewfinder, like blue skies, birds in flight, and how the streets in town actually look.
Nakamura: It made us, the developers, really happy when you shouted, "It looks so much better!" as you looked through the camera for the first time.
Ban: I never imagined I could ever see the outside world without sunglasses, so I was very excited that I could see things this way. It also felt so good that I was able to take pictures properly by myself, and for the first time, I experienced just how much fun it can really be to take pictures.
Nakamura: Ban-san gave us very specific advice when we were developing the product, like "if you do this, you might be able to decrease glare," which we appreciated a lot. We hope to continue working with Sony based on the advice we received.
Sato: We want people to feel a lot of excitement when they use their camera, and we want to work to continue to provide such experiences. I hope that you Ban-san will experience the joy of taking more photos and videos also in the future.
Ban: There are many things I would like to photograph in the future. Mt. Fuji, the forest, the ocean, and many other places, but I would especially like to photograph the ocean. When I look at the ocean through my sunglasses, all the light from the surface of the water is absorbed and it looks like just water, so I want to capture the scene of the ocean as it really is. Also, I would like to photograph the moon. To me, the moon looks like a yellow blob floating around when I look at it through my sunglasses. I would like to use this camera to see and photograph the moon like everyone else sees it, with all its intricate patterns. Finally, I would also like to be the one who takes the group picture. I have always wanted to take the group picture, but until now I was reluctant to do so because I thought that I might not be able to take a good picture and that I might bother everyone. But from now on, I would like to take on that role and picture the various facial expressions of other people on my own.
Nakamura: Whenever I talk to Ban-san, I always feel that you are very positive and forward-looking. Ban-san, you are actively involved in handicrafts, ceramics, and other forms of craftmanship, right?
Ban: I like creating things. Until now I have needed the help of others to create stuff, but from now on I would like to complete them on my own if possible, and I would like to push myself to the point where I am satisfied with the result. I am also quite obsessive when taking pictures, but until now it was difficult to adjust the focus when taking pictures, and after taking a few shots, I had to check to see if the picture was any good. With this camera, I could see the world as it is, which allowed me to focus the camera by myself, and I was able to take pictures until I was satisfied with the results. I was amazed at how I was able to do this all by myself. It was truly a new experience for me.
Sato: Sony's aim is to support the creativity of diverse creators, so it makes me really happy that we can continue to support the desire of each and everyone so that they are able to "push themselves to the point where they are satisfied with the result". Is there anything you would like to try in the future, Ban-san?
Ban: I would like to share the world as I see it with other people and be able to compare my photos with theirs. Some people have more severe symptoms than I do, and I would be happy to share the new experiences I have had through this camera with more people. For example, since I was a child, I often played PlayStation® with my brother, and since he has good eyesight, I always wondered if I was bothering him, and what it could mean if we could fight on more equal terms if I could see a little more. If this camera technology could be used with PlayStation® as well, I feel that it would broaden the scope of the technology beyond photography and might provide an opportunity for many different people to experience the same excitement.
Nakamura: With the input from you and other people with low vision, we would like to rack our brains to solve other problems as well. I believe that Sony's technology is not limited to just one product but is more broadly connected to other applications as well. I hope that we can continue to develop new systems in the future.
Sato: Having the opportunity to speak with Ban-san, who is an individual from the young generation with great potential, I was thrilled to realize that the camera had the possibility to expand the world and lead to new experiences. This has made us aware of the value and significance that the camera can provide and has strengthened our desire to offer the camera to as many people as possible. On the other hand, we have heard many comments from people with visual impairments who use smartphone cameras as a tool in their life to help them see the world around them, that digital cameras are products that they "have no connection to" or "could never master". However, when they went on to try our camera, they were delighted to find that they could see the subject clearly through the viewfinder, and the autofocus and other assisting functions made them realize that cameras feel close to them and are something they can enjoy. Also, the joy and excitement we saw when they touched the prototype cameras, which are currently still under development through inclusive design initiatives, was beyond our imagination and made us realize the significance of promoting this activity as we also become more aware of the various issues that people with disabilities face. We will continue to listen to feedback from more people and address each issue one by one so that people with various disabilities can really enjoy the experience of using the camera.
We will continue to pursue and improve the accessibility of our products, services, and experiences to accommodate creators from all walks of life, aiming for a world where everyone can be themselves and share their excitement.