Visit any education show these days and there is a good chance you will come across a booth/stand demonstrating the wonder that is 3D printing.
But for a team of researchers based in the Sikuli Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder the challenge is how to use this technology to make books more accessible to visually impaired pre-school age children. The project is the brainchild of lab leader Tom Yeh, who conceived the idea while reading Goodnight Moon to his three-year-old son. The goal is ‘to represent 2-D graphics in a 3-D, tactile way, and on a scale that’s appropriate for young children’s cognitive abilities and interests’.
By combining these factors into computational algorithms, Yeh and his team hope to develop an interface that will allow parents to print their own customised books at home using a 3-D printer. ‘Every kid needs a special book that provides the experience he or she needs,’ says Yeh. ‘It is impossible for mass production printing to do that so that it’s easy to make changes and customise. With the price of 3-D printers coming down, it’s not out of reach for a school classroom or a parent to print books. For a child, being able to read together with a parent is very important.’ You can find out more about the Tactile Picture Books Project here.