Monday’s solar eclipse will surely be an unforgettable sight for anyone bearing witness to it. And now, an app is aiming to bring the experience of the eclipse to people who can’t necessarily see it in the sky.
The app — developed by the Eclipse Soundscapes Project — is designed to give people who are blind or have low vision a multi-sensory experience, even if they can’t see the sky.
The project includes real-time audio descriptions of the eclipse. It will also play recordings of sounds from the real world as the total eclipse passes over various locations. For example, animals that usually come out at night will wake up as totality falls, and morning birds will sing as the sun comes out of totality.
The final piece of the project is an interactive “rumple map,” which uses a smartphone’s touch screen and vibrational feedback to show the physical aspects of the eclipse.
The strength of the vibrations coordinate with the brightness of the sun at that part of the eclipse. This will help people with low vision experience what’s happening with the eclipse through their sense of touch.
Eclipse Soundscapes comes from NASA’s Heliophysics Education Consortium, and scientist Henry Winter is behind the audio and rumple map. Winter noticed that “accessible” exhibits only included the item’s name in braille, but no way for anyone who is blind or has low vision to interact with it.
NASA also offers an interactive tactile guide to the eclipse called “Getting a Feel for Eclipses.” The tactile graphics show the interaction of the sun, moon, and Earth as they align different during the eclipse.