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“LightSound” Device Brings the Solar Eclipse Experience to People Who are Blind or Have Low Vision

by B. E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern:

Designed and developed at Harvard University, the “LightSound” was first used for individuals with vision loss to experience the 2017 “Great American Solar Eclipse” with sound. Since then, it has been redesigned for subsequent eclipses, with several hundred built for the upcoming Annular Solar Eclipse on October 14, 2023. To facilitate its functioning, workshops have been held to “train users to build and use the LightSound devices.” The device works via a technique called sonification which is the process of converting light to sound. As the moon eclipses the sun during a solar eclipse, the sunlight dims and the LightSound’s musical tone will change. “It has a high dynamic range of light sensors, so in bright lights it …has a flute sound, and…as the moon eclipses the sun, it gets dimmer…(going) into a clarinet range. So the sound goes down when the light goes down,” said Allyson Bieryla, an astronomer at Harvard. The device can be attached to headphones or to a speaker to project the sound for a group. In anticipation of the upcoming eclipse, LightSound devices have been distributed in many areas across the U.S. and in Canada, such as Charleston, NC, Rensselaerville, NY, San Antonio, TX, San Diego, CA, and Montreal, Canada, to name a few. Workshops have been held in many areas as well. Learn more here about The LightSound Project. To read about how The LightSound works in a specific locale, read the (SanAntonio) article how this Unique device brings solar eclipse experience to blind, low vision community.