Oct. 21, 2014 | By Alec

We see a lot of beautiful, impressive and practical applications come by on a daily basis, but for 3D printing to truly become a mainstream, household and common technology it will need to be human as well. This is perhaps best caught in phrase used by a very moving 3D printing project entitled Touchable Memories: 'Technology is just a tool. People give it a purpose.'

And this project really captures that notion. Touchable Memories is a project started by Spanish creative agency Lola, who wanted to reflect on the human size of 3D printing technology. Their goal was to use 3D printing to help the blind and nearly blind to 'see' some of their most cherished photographs again.

As they explained on their website:

Who hasn't dreamt of reliving a moment in time? Touchable Memories is a social experiment created by the agency LOLA [that tells] the story of five people from different parts of the world, Gabor, Mario, Meritxell, Yassine and Daniela, who have become visually impaired over time. Each of them has a vivid memory of a special moment that was captured in a photograph that has since faded in their memories.

It resulted in a series of short videos that introduce a number of blind people, who explain how blindness has affected their lives and what it does it your most cherished memories. Made by Brazilian filmmaker Marco Aslan, it shares some very moving accounts. As one of them explained, 'a memory is something we hold on to, but fades little by little. It's very important that we can take memories back so we can remember everything we've been through in life.'

And this is where 3D printing comes in. Using a Buccaneer 3D printer from Singapore-based company Pirate 3D, their most cherished photographs (and in one case, an album cover) and thus their memories were given actual shape again. This allowed the blind, whose memories became vaguer and blurrier over time, to once again fully experience them through touch.

This obviously resulted in very touching and moving accounts. Daniela, for instance, chose a memory of a skiing holiday with her family, and the resulting object allowed her to remember intimate details like the particular woollen cap she wore and the crunching snow beneath her boots.

Gabor instead chose a photograph from a project he was working on. He used to be a director of photography before losing his eyesight, but even while blind he had an opportunity to work on a project he never saw. As he reflected: 'This photo is a captured frame of one of the sequences of this movie. I know all its details in my mind, but I cannot see it. I was surprised there was one more thing I didn't remember, which is a table more or less below the window. Yes. I've got the world in my palm, it's wonderful. I knew theoretically how it should be, and I believe that's how it stays. Now I have proof.'

Project director Fred Bosch told Fast Company that their focus was on the human applications of 3D printing, to illustrate what this technology could achieve. 'We realized that most people were not interested in purchasing a 3-D printer for their homes because they didn't know what use they could give to the technology. We purposefully focused on creating an experience that could only be made possible by 3-D printing.'

This touching project truly does that. Could they have stumbled onto the element that is crucial for making 3D printing technology a truly worldwide phenomenon? Check out the Touchable Memories website here.

Also be sure to watch their gripping footage here:

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

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