“Blind people see with their hands” is kind of a cliched notion. Overall, everyone “sees” with all of the senses they have available. Visually impaired people just rely on their non-visual senses a bit more than others, depending on the situation. And while visually impaired people can usually comprehend much about the world around them, items that are flat, two-dimensional, or simply out of reach can be elusive. A company called 3DPhotoWorks is hoping to change that using 3D printers.
3DPhotoWorks has spent the last seven years developing a now-patented process that converts any conventional painting, drawing, collage or photograph into a “3D Tactile Fine Art Print.” The end result is a three-dimensional creation that can be touched and held, greatly increasing a visually impaired person’s ability to “see” the original item:
Using their fingertips, the blind experience 3D Tactile Fine Art Prints through tactile feedback. This feedback creates a mental picture that allows them to ‘see’ the art, often for the first time. To further assist in creating a ‘mental picture,; sensors are embedded throughout the prints that when touched, activate custom audio that describes what is transpiring at that exact coordinate.
The ultimate goal of 3DPhotoWorks is to make its 3D Tactile Fine Art Prints available to museums and other public institutions. The company is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the project.