The Eclipse Soundscapes Project is far from over, but before we move on to other exciting initiatives, we want to share some of the successes of our flagship effort surrounding the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse.
Thanks to our partnership with the National Center for Accessible Media at WGBH Studios, we were able to bring the awe and wonder of the eclipse to an estimated 58,358 people, many of whom are blind or visually impaired. The iOS Eclipse Soundscapes App, which was released on 8/10/2017, was downloaded by 56,500 users with an average rating of 4.89 out of 5. The app remains popular after the eclipse with nearly 64,000 users at the time of this writing and more downloading the app daily. The Android Eclipse Soundscapes App, released on 8/18/2017, was downloaded by 1,858 users with an average rating of 4.11/5. We are pleased to say the Eclipse Soundscapes Application received all A and AA ratings for accessibility in an official review conducted by the National Center for Accessible Media.
Eclipse Soundscapes also partnered with the National Park Service's Natural Sounds Unit to record the changing bio-acoustical chorus in 16 national parks during the eclipse. Those recordings, along with recordings from PRI's Science Friday, Brigham Young University - Idaho, and citizen scientists will be collected on our website shortly, and we look forward to using them in accessible exhibits online and in partnership with Smithsonian museums.
A major milestone of the project was the development of the rumble map for the Eclipse Soundscapes App. The rumble map uses FM-synthesis techniques to produce specially designed tones that shake or "rumble" mobile devices as users explore images of eclipses and variations of light and dark with their fingers instead of their eyes. We plan to expand this technology to make other astronomical observations accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired.
The support and recognition this project received was overwhelming. Eclipse Soundscapes was featured in 28 stories from regional, national, and international media outlets, 6 of which cater specifically to people who are blind and visually impaired. We were invited to speak at 6 educational events along the path of totality. We distributed a whopping 12,000 eclipse glasses to schools, community centers, retirement centers, and libraries across the country, and over 200,000 people tuned in to watch our Facebook Live event the day of the eclipse.
Still, our greatest sense of accomplishment came in the form of positive feedback from our users. Here is what our fans had to say:
“Thank you so much for the app. I cannot tell you how thrilled I was to have been able to share in this experience. Being visually challenged, this app was beyond my imagination. Again thank you for your diligent work.”
“Dear wonderful people, thank you so much for the fabulous Eclipse Soundscape/map. The caring, intelligence and creativity that went into this innovation are immensely impressive, and the sheer joy and excitement it gave me are beyond words. Thank you, thank you for making this possible.”
“Amazing and informative. I’ve always been curious about astronomy and meteorology. I experienced the audio descriptions during totality and very much appreciated them. I’m looking forward to future explorations! I think my favorite rumble-map feature is the diamond ring. Thanks so much for this project!”
“Awesome app! Much more interesting information given than I expected and it’s all very nicely arranged — kudos to the Devs for doing such a great job on this.”
“Plenty of features for sighted people too. Such an educational app! Get it for Monday 8/21/17 as well as future eclipses.”
So thank you to all of our fans, users, and citizen scientists. We can’t wait to hear your recordings as soon as we roll out our submissions page!