Apr 1, 2016 | By Benedict

With the help of 3D printer manufacturer Mass Portal, prizewinning Latvian startup Tactile Eyesight has used 3D printing to create tactile book illustrations for the blind and visually impaired. Its first project is the book Missing Monkey by Latvian author Luīzes Pastores.

Ever since French innovator Louis Braille developed his eponymous tactile alphabet code in the early nineteenth century, the blind and visually impaired have possessed a powerful and efficient means of reading and writing. But whilst braille can be used to communicate words, the ultimate meaning of those words can be lost on readers who have never seen the things which those words denote. A visually impaired reader can comprehend the word “elephant” through the following embossed symbols:

Ultimately, however, if a reader has never seen an elephant before, the symbols alone cannot fully communicate what is meant by the word. That’s where Tactile Eyesight and Mass Portal come in. Startup Tactile Eyesight has, with the help of Mass Portal’s Latvian-built 3D printing technology, embarked upon an ambitious 3D printing project which aims to bring fully tactile illustrations to children’s literature. By enabling a blind or visually impaired reader to feel a set of tactile 3D printed illustrations, the startup can bring the characters, objects, and landscapes of a book to life.

Tactile illustrations already exist, but have traditionally taken a long time to design and produce. Many are still created by hand. By using 3D printing, the designers at Tactile Eyesight have provided themselves with a shortcut: they can create 3D images on a computer screen relatively quickly, leaving all the difficult technical work to the Mass Portal 3D printer. The startup hopes that the precision of the 3D printer, coupled with the creativity of the 3D designer, will help to fully convey the wonderful images behind the words of children’s literature.

To test its 3D printing capabilities, Tactile Eyesight chose the book Missing Monkey, part of the “Art Detective” series, by Latvian author Luīzes Pastores, to be its prototype. Over the course of three weeks, 3D printing company Mass Portal invited a group of Lithuanian exchange students, working on behalf of Tactile Eyesight, to its 3D printing headquarters, where the group generated 3D models using SketchUp 3D modeling software.

“Cooperation with Mass Portal is a very important part of the tactile books prototyping phase,” said Mareks Matisons, creator of Tactile Eyesight. “Our colleagues gained knowledge of 3D printing, and learned how to speed up the designing and printing process. During the exchange program, the students conducted experiments working with illustrations and versions of our research. We have taken ​​a considerable step.”

“Book illustrations for young children are very important,” added Inga Žilinska, Mass Portal marketing manager. “By looking at pictures, a child learns new words and concepts and become aware of the world around them. Children with visual impairments can have the same experience using tangible 3D images. It is a real pleasure to be a part of this process, enabling children and young people to integrate into society by showing them as-yet unseen and unfamiliar wonders of the world that we often take for granted.”

Tactile Eyesight has already been recognized by international institutions. In December 2015, the startup won the Global Startup Battle, beating around 25,000 participants from 60 countries to scoop the prize in the Great in the Making category.

With around 300 million people in the world suffering from visual impairments and 40 million fully blind, Tactile Eyesight hopes to continue its growth, bringing the wonderful world of literature to the fingertips of children everywhere.



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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