SoundSight: a mobile sensory substitution device that sonifies colour, distance, and temperature

G Hamilton-Fletcher, J Alvarez, Marianna Obrist, J Ward
in Journal on Multimodal User Interfaces, Journal article


Depth, colour, and thermal images contain practical and actionable information for the blind. Conveying this information through alternative modalities such as audition creates new interaction possibilities for users as well as opportunities to study neuroplasticity. The 'SoundSight' App ( is a smartphone platform that allows 3D position, colour, and thermal information to directly control thousands of high-quality sounds in real-time to create completely unique and responsive soundscapes for the user. Users can select the specific sensor input and style of auditory output, which can be based on anything—tones, rainfall, speech, instruments, or even full musical tracks. Appropriate default settings for image-sonification are given by designers, but users still have a fine degree of control over the timing and selection of these sounds. Through utilising smartphone technology with a novel approach to sonification, the SoundSight App provides a cheap, widely accessible, scalable, and flexible sensory tool. In this paper we discuss common problems encountered with assistive sensory tools reaching long-term adoption, how our device seeks to address these problems, its theoretical background, its technical implementation, and finally we showcase both initial user experiences and a range of use case scenarios for scientists, artists, and the blind community.