What 3-D printers also can do is print out books for visually-impaired children, books with textures, images, and letters that can be touched as they are read. 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 at 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. If you write or want to publish children's picture books, you can create and print out tactile 3D children's books for visually impaired children. Many blind children do not start learning Braille until they are about six years old. You would start by having access to a 3-D printer for your tactile book creations.
Picture books for visually impaired kids now can go 3-D thanks to a University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder) research team. "Goodnight room, goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon..." 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 at 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.
Creating 3-D picture books for kids also is one way book authors whose books have gone out of print can give fresh life to their tomes by printing the picture books in 3D with a 3D printer so that blind, visually impaired, and deaf-blind children can touch the pictures in the books or story collections that emphasize pictures, art, or other imagery. A similar application can be taken up by photographers who want to create a tactile collection of their photos in 3D for the visually impaired to touch.
The Tactile Picture Books Project
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. University of Colorado at Boulder (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, according to the June 23, 2014 news release, Picture books for visually impaired kids go 3-D thanks to CU-Boulder research team. "It seemed to me to be the ideal book that would lend itself to our new research effort."
Tactile picture books for visually impaired children can be printed out with 3D printers parents, teachers, or book authors
The idea of tactile picture books is not new, said Yeh, according to the news release. "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 explained. Yeh gave a presentation on the subject at the annual Association for Computing Machinery's CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems held in May in Toronto.
Yeh directs the Sikuli Lab at CU-Boulder, where his students conduct research on how computers can see better and interact with humans more naturally. Yeh, who received his doctorate in computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, also studies artificial intelligence with a goal of people using it to solve practical problems.
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.
A single object can dominate a particular page and scaled to a variety of sizes so blind kids can feel its shape
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.
Parents can choose a book, take a picture of the page, and send the picture to a 3-D printer
"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, according to the news release. "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.
The global enthusiasm for 3D printing is off the charts, said Yeh. People now are 3D printing aircraft engine parts, bikinis, pizzas, bicycles, artificial limbs and teddy bears -- even all of the parts required to assemble another 3D printer. Yeh likened 3D printing to building an object with a tiny Lego set: Setting down nearly microscopic drops of material -- often liquid plastic -- then building them up into 3D objects, like a clock or a dinosaur, a drop at a time using the interface created by Yeh and his team.
"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 has been 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 University of Colorado Boulder is the expert in technology and the Anchor Center is the expert in tactile reading," said Anchor Center teacher JC Greeley, according to the news release. "Together we are able to create a unified tactile reading tool that gives young visually impaired children immediate and equal accessibility to books, offering the whole family a way to experience the magic of reading together."
University of Colorado (CU-Boulder) graduate student Abigale Stangl of the ATLAS program and the computer science department, one of Yeh's students, volunteers at the Anchor Center. "For the visually impaired, tactile development is important," she said. "I'm interested in learning different ways we perceive the world and how we can help create interesting experiences through touch."
3-D printed books
Another doctoral student, Jeeeun Kim, helped to create and refine the first "Goodnight Moon" 3D-printed book. "We liked that the story is simple and all objects the little bunny says goodnight to are easily found in our daily lives, enabling children to imagine what those look like," said Jeeeun.
"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."
Generating more interest in the project
Yeh, who also conducts research on "big data" and security issues, said it was a risky proposition to dive into the world of 3D picture books for vision-impaired kids. "I took a chance and I am doing something very different, which is fulfilling." he said. "The engineering college has been very supportive of my work.
"Our goal now is to generate more interest in this project," said Yeh. "We will be putting on some workshops in the Denver-Boulder area this summer, teaching people how to make 3D models of children's picture books and printing them." For more information you may wish to visit the website of the Tactile Picture Books Project. Or check out the website of the Annual Association for Computing Machinery's CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems.