While 3D printing has already proved to simplify the lives of normal people, why shouldn’t people who are physically handicapped benefit from with it too? Researchers from the University of Buffalo have partnered with Touch Graphics Inc. to develop Touch-responsive 3D maps. The Touch-sensitive 3D maps are known to benefit the blind, visually impaired and people with normal vision too, providing information and directions through voice.
The idea behind Touch-responsive maps is to tackle one of the most invasive consequences of being blind: navigating around strange places. The blind tend to do well in navigating around in the privacy of their own homes and even in their neighborhoods, but getting around independently in public places such as giant hospital buildings, museums and college campuses or Govt. offices can be quite challenging. Just imagine finding room 32C on the sixth floor of a multi-storied complex with your eyes shut, through the maze of corridors, elevators and weirdly shaped offices.
The Touch-sensitive maps tackle the ‘last mile’ issue for blind, who can easily navigate to a public place using GPS, after which they need assistance to proceed further to a particular indoor spot. The interactive 3D plans feature 3D printed miniature models that have been coated with conductive paint. As visitors explore the model with their hands, the maps sense pressure from a visitor’s fingers and announce the model’s name and how to get there, whilst landscape features like water fountains gurgles and bells chime when tapped.
The latest prototypes have already been installed at Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts and Technology Center, Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton. An earlier prototype including a floor plan has been placed at the Chicago Lighthouse for the blind. Another upcoming model is said to be installed at the Philadelphia-based Overbrook School for the Blind. All the maps provide an enjoyable experience for everyone and turn out to be awesome guide for the blind.