3D Comes to Aid Visually Impaired

Developers are now looking into creating 3D maps and glasses that will help those who are blind or suffer from chronic eye diseases

Published: 14th December 2014 09:55 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th December 2014 09:55 AM   |  A+A-


With 3D becoming an important part of our lives, we have a lot of products that are turning to 3D. Printers, interior designs, projectors, TV and glasses have entered the 3D arena. Now maps are going the 3D way. Developers at the University of Buffalo-Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center), US, in association with Touch Graphics, a tactile graphics company based in the US, have created a multi-sensory modelled map. This technology aims to help the visually impaired, but will be available for all to use in public spaces.

These models were first incorporated at Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts, US, where the layout of the campus was inculcated in the map. These models use conductive paint on 3D printed miniature buildings to sense pressure from human fingers. These prototypes will offer high-tech details of buildings and architectural infrastructure once you touch upon a part of the map.

As you move around the map, a voice will announce the names of buildings and give you directions. There is a button to control menu options and browse the index. They have added sound effects to help users identify each space. For example, a fountain gurgles when tapped and a bell tower chimes.

“It’s really about giving this audience, this population, a way to understand their environment,” says IDeA Center researcher Heamchand Subryan, who led the project with IDeA Center Director Edward Steinfeld, ArchD, and Touch Graphics President Steve Landau. “We’re providing a level of information that allows them to navigate their environment easily, without help, which gives them a sense of independence,” he says on the University website report.

The developers feel that this could be used even by ordinary commuters and would give travellers exact directions. Prototypes have also been placed at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Massachusetts and the Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind.


Though we have a lot of 3D glasses and googles, there is nothing specific for the visually impaired. This is where Digiglasses comes in. The project which started in 2012, will use stereoscopic vision which can be customised as per the user’s eye disease. These glasses can be used only by those who are partially blind or have some eye disease.

This kit comprises digital glasses, custom electronics and a software camera (something like a smartphone camera). The user will be able to see stereoscopic images which have been enhanced through 3D. Stereoscopic images are enhanced pictures through a technique called stereoscopy. This technique enhance

two-dimension images into 3D images. According to a report on, the nature of that enhancement depends on the condition the user has. For example, contrast can be increased, edges of stairs or pavement curbs clearly accentuated, the borders of zebra crossings overlaid with red lines, and so on. They have micro display on its lens which turns the image similar to that of a television set.

Developers have conducted trials with visually impaired people and have got expert advise from their trainers as well. They aim to incorporate all this into the product. To help visually impaired they are also looking into gaming headsets which offers an experience where the player is in the setting, playing the game. The project hopes to go commercial at the end of 2015, says the report.

You can get more details and also view a video on how the Digiglasses work on


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