Reading is important for kids. It allows them to run away with their imaginations, while also encouraging development. The American Society of Pediatrics recently issued a statement encouraging parents to read to their kids every day from infancy until at least kindergarten. For visually-impaired children, this experience can be quite challenging. They aren't able to see the words well, and they can't take in the colorful illustrations.
Researchers at the University of Colorado are helping visually-impaired kids enjoy reading just as much as anyone else by using 3D printers to make tactile picture books. The team has made 3D versions of picture books like Goodnight Moon, Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? and Harold and the Purple Crayon.
“There’s not too many projects where you can see a very clear combination of engineering, societal impact and art,” said Tom Yeh, the project's lead and an assistant professor of computer science. “It gives all students an option to communicate through design and 3-D models.”
This isn't the first attempt at tactile picture books, though. The American Printing House for the Blind has been producing such books for years, but the process has been expensive and complex. The use of 3D printers takes away from the lengthy process and, as the price of these printers decrease, so to will the cost of each book. Researchers hope this will also lead to families being able to print such books on their own.
The University of Colorado has a few examples of the tactile books on display at the Gemmill Library of Engineering, Mathematics and Physics.