Jan.28, 2014

Get ready for an awesome application of 3D printing and haptic technology: Fittle ("fit the puzzle") is a learning toy which aims to help children with visual impairments match abstract words to concrete shapes and forms.

Fittle puzzles involve breaking down objects into as many blocks as there are letters in the word. The child may then feel the blocks and fit them together to form a word – and the shape of the object represented by that word – at the same time.

With Fittle, visually challenged kids use their sense of touch to learn Braille letters, how to spell words, and the shapes and forms of objects that those words represent. This is all done by playing with a 3D printed Fittle puzzle.

For example, the word "fish" has four letters. A Frittle puzzle for "fish" is constructed by joining together four puzzle blocks, which have the letters F-I-S-H on them, each embossed in Braille. The visually challenged child fits together the blocks by feeling and matching the right shapes. The child can read the word "fish" embossed in Braille, as well as feel around the contours of the entire block, which is shaped like a fish. This make it easy for kids to understand the shapes of various objects — and it can be taught by a parent or a teacher. The possibilities are incredible.

Designer Tania Jain and Ophthalmologist Anthony Vipin Das have been working together on the Fittle project since Jain approached him with the idea at the DIY workshop "Engineering the Eye" which he co-organized at the MIT Media Lab. The team is currently in the process of creating an alphabet series and a graded curriculum based on information from the LV Prasad Eye Institute in India. The project is open source as the team would like their playful learning toolset to be available for as many children as possible. It use FDM/FFF 3D printers to create the Fittle forms.

3D printing technology will allow the Fittle team to expand their original concept and experiment with different materials which may bring kids closer to the actual feelings and textures of the objects represented by Fittle puzzles. For example, a rubber-like material may be used in the 3D printed fish to make increase its fishy feel.

Fittle is developed based on an understanding of how blind people perceive the world:

"Each form is designed to balance between realistic and abstract form, so as to maintain differentiating details of structure of an object, without giving too much information for a child. The words used are chosen according to the following parameters:
1. Phonetic simplicity for kids
2. Shape of the object (preferably something that the kid cannot hold in his/her hands otherwise. E.g. T for Train)
3. Experiential sound feedback
4. Reproducibility in 3D Printing (open source; accessible manufacturing)
5. Context specificity ("Indian" v/s "global" objects)
6. System Design (Some puzzles, when paired with a specific puzzle, play a sound/poem to describe the relationship between the 2 objects. Eg. Hammer and Nail)

Connectors are made out of basic geometrical shapes that are easily identifiable by young kids, and strengthen perception by touch. Braille dots are kept bigger in size than standard size braille, since these kids have just learnt alphabets, but small enough for an alphabet to fit within their finger at one time.

Fittle has been well-received by many global entities like TED, The Times of India, and Grazia and is currently a contender in the design competition People's Choice Interaction Awards. So, if you would like to support their project, then go ahead and drop them a "like."

Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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