A 3D picture book makes a story more accessible for visually impaired kids;
© Julián Rovagnati/panthermedia.net
A children's classic that already is a candidate for the all-time best feel-good book, "Goodnight Moon," has gotten a boost: A University of Colorado (CU) Boulder team printed the first 3D version of it, allowing visually impaired children and their families to touch objects in the story – like the cow jumping over the moon – as it is read aloud.
The story by Margaret Wise Brown of a bunny in bed wishing good night to his surroundings, "Goodnight Moon" was a logical first choice for CU-Boulder's Tactile Picture Books Project – there are more than 40 million copies in print and it has been translated into at least a dozen languages. CU-Boulder computer science Assistant Professor Tom Yeh and his team now are using the same techniques to print several other highly popular children's books in 3D, including "Harold and the Purple Crayon" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar."
"When my son was born three years ago we got five copies of 'Goodnight Moon' as gifts, an indication of how popular it is among small children and adults," said Yeh. "It seemed to me to be the ideal book that would lend itself to our new research effort."
The idea of tactile picture books is not new, said Yeh. "What is new is making 3D printing more accessible and interactive so parents and teachers of visually impaired children can customize and print these kinds of picture books in 3D," he said.
This spring, Yeh assigned students in his rapid prototyping class to create four 3D pages each from the popular kid's book "Harold and the Purple Crayon," published in 1955 by Crocket Johnson, in which a small boy creates his own world by simply drawing it. For the finished book, Yeh selected one page from each student in the class. "The creative side of these students really came out," he says.
Some of the 3D pages printed by Yeh's students contained only a single object that dominated a particular page – like a boat Harold is climbing in, for example – objects that may be scaled to larger or smaller sizes so blind children can better feel its shape. The 3D pages for "Harold and the Purple Crayon" currently are on display along the stairwell wall of the Gemmill Library in CU-Boulder's Mathematics Building.
The main idea is to represent 2D graphics in a 3D, tactile way on a scale appropriate for the cognitive abilities and interests of young children, said Yeh. The team combines this information with computational algorithms – essentially step-by-step instructions for mathematical calculations – providing an interface that allows parents, teachers and supporters to print their own customized picture books using 3D computers.
"Ideally a parent could choose a book, take a picture of a page, send the picture to a 3D printer, which would result in a 3D tactile book," he said. "We are investigating the scientific, technical and human issues that must be addressed before this vision can be fully realized."
Yeh said hobbyists who already own 3D printers could be a huge help to the project. "If they could donate their creative minds and time to make something that benefits visually impaired kids, that would be great." Another potential benefit? The cost of 3D printers – currently thousands of dollars – will likely drop significantly in the coming years, just as ink jet laser printers did a few decades ago, making them accessible to most people.
"I realized we could do something meaningful by interpreting pictures from these children's books using mathematical diagrams," he said. "This project is much more difficult than I envisioned, but it also is much more rewarding."
The Tactile Picture Books Project headed by Yeh was boosted last year by an $8,000 outreach grant from the university, which has helped his research team collaborate with the Anchor Center for Blind Children, a preschool in Denver, to better understand the needs of visually impaired toddlers and how parents can effectively engage them in reading. One big advantage to tactile 3D children's books is that many blind children do not start learning Braille until they are about six years old, said Yeh.
"The 3D technology already was there, we had techniques we developed for image processing, you put them together and you have the means to print out 3D images from children's books," said Yeh. "The goal is to have parents, teachers and supporters of visually impaired children learn how to use software and 3D printers to make books of their own. Since each child generally has his or her unique visual impairment issues, the idea is to customize each book for each child."
REHACARE.de; Source: University of Colorado at Boulder