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Device helps people who are blind or have low vision experience a solar eclipse

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

In about a month, a solar eclipse will darken much of the United States as the moon passes in front of the sun. The last big one in North America was in 2017, and it was Harvard astronomer Allyson Bieryla's first.

ALLYSON BIERYLA: It kind of blew my mind. Like, it was one of the coolest things I had experienced ever.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It kind of blew my mind when I went to Oregon and got to see it. It was amazing. Bieryla wanted to figure out a way for everyone to have that experience, even if they were blind or had low vision. So she and some coworkers invented what they're calling a light-sound device. It's a 3D-printed box, only slightly bigger than a smartphone, so it's easy to get, and it plays the sound of a different musical instrument depending on how much light it sees.

BIERYLA: If you're outside on a sunny day, bright light, you might hear, like, kind of like a flute sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF FLUTE NOTE)

BIERYLA: As the moon is eclipsing the sun, it'll start to change tone.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLARINET NOTE)

BIERYLA: The midrange goes into a clarinet. And then it keeps going down in pitch.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOWER NOTE)

BIERYLA: And then in the darkest moments of totality, you'd hear a low clicking sound...

(SOUNDBITE OF CLICKING)

BIERYLA: ...And it gets slower and slower. During totality, you would hear like click, click.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLOW CLICKS)

MARTIN: Bieryla wants these 3D light-sound boxes to inspire as many people as possible.

BIERYLA: You know, this is how we get the next great generation of ideas. Just because someone doesn't have sight doesn't mean they don't have great ideas.

MARTIN: Bieryla's team has gotten more than 1,000 requests for light-sound devices, and they plan to send them out free of charge. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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