3D Printing Creates Major Breakthrough for Blind People

From PRNewswire, October 26, 2015

3DPhotoWorks LLC, with support from the National Federation of the Blind, announces a 3D printing process that allows blind people to “see” fine art, diagrams, and other images. This recently patented process converts any conventional painting, drawing, collage or photograph into a 3D Tactile Fine Art Print. Prints have length, width, depth, and texture and are available in sizes up to 60″ x 120″.

The Company has devoted seven years to the development of this exciting new technology with the goal of making art and photography available to blind people at every museum, science center and institution, first in the United States and then worldwide.

Inspired by research conducted by neuroscientist Dr. Paul Bach-y-Rita of the University of Wisconsin, 3D tactile printing is based on the concept of neuroplasticity. As Dr. Bach-y-Rita’s research within the blind community confirms, “The brain is able to use tactile information coming from the fingertips as if it were coming from the eyes. That’s because we don’t see with our eyes or hear with our ears, these are just the receptors; seeing and hearing in fact goes on in the brain.”

Using their fingertips, the blind experience 3D Tactile Fine Art Prints through tactile feedback. This feedback creates a mental picture that allows them to “see” the art, often for the first time. To further assist in creating a “mental picture,” sensors are embedded throughout the prints that when touched, activate custom audio that describes what is transpiring at that exact coordinate.

Mark Riccobono, the President of The National Federation of the Blind was the first in the blind community to identify the product’s potential, and for the past two years, Federation members have provided tremendous technical support to the company. President Riccobono stated, “While sight is not a prerequisite for success, equal access to information is. The next great frontier in achieving this goal is access to images, not merely to words describing them. As a blind father with both blind and sighted children, it thrills me that my family will be able to explore and appreciate great works of art, photographs, and other images together. Too often people invent ways of describing art to blind people rather than creating authentic means for the blind to perceive visual imagery in non-visual ways. This technology opens up new avenues for exploration and understanding and will enhance the experience for everyone. This technology also has the potential to allow greater participation by the blind in a wide variety of fields, especially the visual arts and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics) subjects.”

In the U.S. one person goes blind every 11 minutes, and today there are 285 million blind and low-vision individuals worldwide. 3D Tactile Printing allows the blind to experience images directly, without depending on another person’s interpretation. The words most frequently used by blind people when asked to describe what 3D Tactile Fine Art Printing provides are “Freedom, Independence, and Equality.”

John Olson is the co-founder of 3DPhotoWorks. He began his career as a war photographer and is a decorated Army veteran and was nominated for the Silver Star, awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with “V” for Valor. His photographs from the Tet Offensive won the prestigious Robert Capa Award following publication in LIFE Magazine. He was the youngest photographer ever hired to the staff of LIFE Magazine. As a successful photographer, John wondered what his life would have been like for him without images which inspired him to spend seven years in research, development, and creation of 3D Tactile Fine Art Printing.

For more information on 3DPhotoWorks, visit http://www.3dphotoworks.com.

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