April 9, 2013 | By Geraldine Bouvry

Midas Touch… This is the name picked by four Harvard students for a project proposal, centered on 3D printing technology to render paintings accessible to the visually impaired.

When we know that Midas Touch also refers as "Golden Touch" in the Greek mythology, for that the King Midas had the ability to turn everything he touched in gold, we understand that if this project comes real, it will definitely be a golden opportunity for the visually impaired community!

The project was presented at the Harvard Deans' Cultural Entrepreneurship Challenge and was selected with nine other finalists, out of 70 applications. This challenge was created to support students in exploring how entrepreneurship or innovative business ideas can be used to sustain the longevity of the arts and enhance their cultural impact.

To know more about the Challenge, you can also browse the article posted on the Harvard Gazette.

(Image: Harvard.edu)

How did Midas Touch all start?

It came from Constantine Tarabanis, a Harvard student, originally from Greece, which is one explanation to the project's name picked. Tarabanis had done some volunteering work with the visually impaired for several years, back in Greece, where he became friend with one of them in particular. However, when trying to communicate experiences only a sighted person can have, like seeing a painting, he realized the challenge he was facing.

So, when he saw his roommate from college carrying several 3D printed objects, it triggered his idea: using 3D printing technology to somehow "translate" paintings into a form the blind could appreciate…

Tarabanis's team (four Harvard students in total) began to design a system that would create "tactile representations of paintings" (hence the Midas or Golden Touch). Using a combination of computer aided design software and 3D printing technology, the team believes it to be easy enough to create a "two-and-a-half-D models" of paintings. The idea being to "protrude the image," similar to the sculptural technique known as relief.

With their project, Tarabanis' team wants to bridge the visually impaired to the art scene. Two-and-a-half-dimension paintings could form part of the special education wings of museums, or even accompany textbooks on art for the blind. In brief, making art more appealing and closer to a sensorial experience, which is far from being the case currently.

Additionally, the team sees a real "socially-responsible usage" into the 3D printing technology serving the visually impaired, which goes well beyond a gimmick to create new toys.

As finalists in the Harvard challenge, the Midas Touch team has already gained $5,000 in funding (should they win the grand prize, they'll wind up with $75,000). They have begun ordering materials with the money and hope to have a working prototype of their design in early May.
The team is ambitious and wishes to move their project further by creating pressure-sensitive regions, onto the paintings, that would provide audio commentary when pressed. Linking the touch with the hearing to complete the sensorial experience…

Any feedback yet from the targeted audience?... When Tarabanis last met his friend in Greece, "The thing I was most happy about," he says, "is he seemed really excited about it. He himself wanted to test the idea".

Creating excitement is a good start. Let's hope that this smart idea will also arouse interest among 3D printing industrials to make it come true, sooner than later…



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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