Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon.
3D printers open up picture books for children with visual impairment.
At the University of Colorado, the Children’s Tactile Book Project led by Tom Yeh is converting children’s picture books into tactile form, using 3D printer technology. Text is translated into Braille. Pictures are rendered in 3D, so they can be “seen” by touch.
Tactile picture books exist already of course, but are expensive because of the process involved in making them. 3D printing offers a more flexible and potentially more economical means of production. As the cost of 3D printing falls – and looking historically at other printing technologies it’s bound to – 3D printing is set to become widespread. The Tactile Books Project team expect that before too long parents will be able to download a tactile book and print it off at home.
Longer term the team envisage developing software that would allow parents to take an ordinary book, photograph it, and from the images generate a tactile book without needing any special technical knowledge. To me this seems very challenging, and at the moment conversion is not automatic and requires significant design effort.
The picture book the team have chosen as a prototype is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, with pictures by Clement Hurd. In case you don’t know the book, it is a simple story in which a little bunny says goodnight to a series of familiar objects. There’s a rather nice animated version on YouTube.
This simple story with a focus on emotionally tangible things, seems ideal for translation into the sense of touch. Here’s the house and the mouse, the cow and the moon.
These are so delightful that anyone might want to handle them and imagine that rather lumpy cow doing a flying trick.
If you happen to have a 3D printer, files to print these things are available under creative commons from Thingiverse.
Of course there is a lot more to the project than this. Have a look at the website.
PS fans will be glad that two more books on the way are
Harold and the Purple Crayon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. I look forward to feeling the caterpillar!