Friday, December 09, 2022

The revival of the 19th century tactile art form for the blind

zoom in , 3D-printed lithophane could help visually impaired scientists “see” data, such as protein-separating gels, with their fingers.

Orden Kohn / Brian Shaw

In the nineteenth century, an art form known as Lithovan was all the rage in Western Europe. These delicate reliefs are usually made of a translucent material such as porcelain or wax. When backlit, a glowing 3D image will appear that will change its characteristics in response to various light sources. Now researchers have revived this art form to create touch graphics to depict scientific data glowing in the dark. Based on a recently published paper in Science Advances, this lithophane is accessible to both the blind and the sighted, making it a universal visual tool for scientific data.

“This research is an example of the art of making science more accessible and comprehensive. Art protects science from itself”, said co-author Brian Shaw, a biochemist at Baylor. “Scientific data and images – for example, the stunning images emanating from the new Webb telescope – are inaccessible to the visually impaired. However, we show that thin transparent haptic charts, called lithophanes, make these images accessible to all. in whatever terms they are… as we like to say, “data for all”.

The word “lithophane” comes from the Greek litho (stone or boulder) and Man (cause to appear), popularly translated as “light in stone”. The roots of this art form can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty in ancient China as far back as 1,000 years. (Historical sources describe thin paper bowls with hidden decorations.) However, until now, it is not known whether lithophane actually existed in China before 1800.

Exactly who proved the process of making lithophane is still being debated among historians. A common 19th-century process involved engraving three-dimensional designs into thin sheets of wax or translucent porcelain using traditional tools. Satisfaction and engraving printing technology. More light will shine through the parts of the statue where the wax is the thinnest.

The thickness of this lithophane ranges from one-sixteenth of an inch to one-quarter of an inch. They are depicted as light sources with candles burning behind them in windows or as paintings hung in front of shields. Lithophen can also be used as a night light, fireplace screen, hot tea or embossed with dramatic images. American industry Samuel Colt He filled his home in Hartford, Connecticut with more than 100 lithophane, and ordered 111 lithophane copies of his photograph to give to friends and colleagues.

This technology fell out of favor after the invention of photography, but the advent of 3D printing has revived interest. Today, according to Shaw and his co-authors, lithophane is typically made from plastic, and any 2D image is 3D printed, which is converted into a 3D topography, which they created using free online software. did. Four of these co-authors were blind from birth or childhood, but still earned their Ph.D. But those are rare examples. Finding ways to create tactile charts that can be used by visually impaired and visually impaired individuals will remove the old barriers that keep many blind people away from science.

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