How do great works of art look to the blind?
The answer is not seen, they are simply described in each museum thanks to the signs in Braille that involve touch or audio guides that involve sound.
How, then, is it possible to make the visit of a blind or partially sighted person to the museum an inclusive and immersive experience? Thanks to new technologies!
But how can the beauties of visual art, like sculpture, be made tangible to people who cannot admire them or even touch them at the museum?
The answer to this question is contained in the title of an innovative “Touching Masterpieces” project, promoted by the Prague National Gallery, which allowed blind users to touch the 3D models of famous statues that for the occasion they have been recreated in a virtual reality environment. The experience was born from the collaboration between the Leontinka Foundation, the Prague National Gallery and the startup NeuroDigital Technologies, has virtually recreated three masterpieces of the history of art: the head of Nefertiti from 1345 BC, the Venus de Milo from 101 BC and the Michelangelo’s David of 1504 AD. The goal was to create 3D models for the blind, to let them experience the masterpieces in all their majesty by making them touch them thanks to the special Neuro Digital tactile gloves equipped with sensors in the palms and fingertips that, vibrating at different frequencies and intensity, to give the users the opportunity to feel the difference between the various types of materials and therefore to understand the shapes of the statues.
What is being done in Italy?
Some experiments of this type have been carried out by the startup, created by the digital architect Serena Ruffato, called “Tooteko” which has the aim of making art accessible to the blind and visually impaired people by integrating tactile exploration with audio data. The experiences they have proposed foresee that the user touches some surfaces equipped with sensors by wearing a special “technological ring” that detects and reads the NFC tags and communicates wirelessly with devices that explain the works through audio tracks. Thus blind people can “see the works” through touch and hearing by recognizing subjects and details.