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Touchable Memories: 3D Prints For The Blind

Curators’ corner

Touchable Memories: 3D Prints For The Blind

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Every year, roughly seven million people around the world lose the ability to see. This life-changing event presents enormous emotional challenges, and one adversity often overlooked is the fading of revered visual memories over time.

In ‘Touchable Memories’, Singapore-based 3D printing company Pirate3D and Spanish creative agency Lola re-created old photographs for people with blindness, allowing the vision-impaired to tangibly “see” the memories they once so-lovingly admired on the mantelpiece. This project applied 3D printing to an unexplored field and recorded overwhelmingly positive results.

Project leader Fred Bosch asked five blind individuals to pick their most cherished photographs for tactile re-creations. Mario, a blind musician, chose to re-create his 2002 album cover, ‘Voices’, while Gabor, a former director of photography, submitted a screen shot from a short film he worked on.  Gabor and Mario reacted to the 3D prints with euphoric nostalgia. The participants were observed caressing every groove, indentation, and mark while smiling from ear-to-ear, deep in a reminiscent state of mind.

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Mario’s album cover and 3D recreation

But no reaction was more powerful than Daniela’s, who picked a photograph of her family during a memorable ski trip to Colorado. As Bosch explained to the Fast Company, Daniela seemed like she was looking at a photograph of herself for the very first time.

“She chose a memory that not only brought her back to her childhood and the ski holiday she spent with her family, but also reminded her of intimate details that she had forgotten, like the wool cap she was wearing at the time and the crunch of the snow beneath her boots,” Bosch said.

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Daniela’s family portrait and 3D recreation

Bosch and the other minds behind ‘Touchable Memories’ hope their project adds a human element to the 3D printing industry. While the new technology is slowly creeping into the manufacturing and industrial sectors, it has yet to establish a direct emotional attachment with consumers.

“We realized that most people were not interested in purchasing a 3-D printer for their homes because they didn’t know what use they could give to the technology,” Bosch said. “We purposefully focused on creating an experience that could only be made possible by 3-D printing.”

To learn more about this project, watch the incredibly moving video below. You can also visit the Touchable Memories website.

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