Touching Masterpieces presented to the blind an entirely new way to connect to the world.
The focus of Virtual Reality haptics development around the globe has mostly been in military or gaming sectors.
With ‘Touching Masterpieces’ NeuroDigital demonstrated how much more Virtual Reality haptics can offer humanity.
Thanks to specially designed haptic gloves, this unique Virtual Reality experience has allowed the blind to ‘see’ some of the world’s iconic sculptural masterpieces for the first time in history.
This creates a new age of digital accessibility for the blind and visually impaired.
The focus of Virtual Reality haptics development around the globe has mostly been in military or gaming sectors. NeuroDigital’s tech start-up in Spain, had a mission: ‘to improve quality of life through disruptive technologies like Virtual Reality’.
The brief, to find the way how to show to the world amazing possibilities of haptic Virtual Reality in the most impactful way was thus realized.
The main challenge was that for the first time the entire development couldn’t rely on visual inputs that usually guide a Virtual Reality experience.
‘Touching Masterpieces’ experience combines art creation with the existing Avatar Virtual Reality technology adapted for the blind, including electronic design and software development.
The budget for the development was EUR 70 000
Describe the idea
The mere essence of Virtual Reality Haptics - ‘adding a sense of touch to Virtual Reality’ – gave NeuroDigital the idea to connect their tech to the audience no one ever thought of before: blind people.
Out of all people living, over 36 million people are blind from birth, and 217 million, severely visually impaired. And even in today’s information age, blind people are still deprived from experiencing art in its various forms and majesty.
NeuroDigital changed that by creating the first Virtual Reality experience for the blind that allows them to ‘see’ world’s iconic sculptural masterpieces through virtual touch – with the help of Avatar Virtual Reality gloves customized specifically for this project.
What were the key dates in the development process?
Idea kick-off: August 2017
BETA testing development September 2017 December 2017
Interface development: January 2 -January 30 2018
Artwork digital rendering: February 1 - February 28 2018
Iterative development including tests with blind people: March 1 - March 30.
Release and presentation: between March 15 - March 20
Describe the innovation/technology
The Avatar Virtual Reality haptic gloves were customized specifically for this project by being enriched with multi-frequency technology able to stimulate different types of skin cells’ tactile responses – to provide the blind with the most accurate perception of 3D virtual sculptures. Depending on the texture and shape of the virtual object, different vibrations were sent.
3D models were modified from laser scans of the original masterpieces by developing unique UV unwraps and re-topology, adding necessary extra levels of texture to create a real tactile experience.
Keeping in mind that blind and visually impaired people see by touch, haptic feedback was configured to let them decide which out of 10 vibrotactile actuators they want to use (up to 1024 profiles of vibration each). In other words, letting them switch between their way of seeing – with either the finger tips, palms or hand, making the experience truly immersive for them all.
Avatar Virtual Reality glove is already available in the market and compatible with all the main existing VR devices, and 3D haptic models of ‘Nefertiti’, ‘Venus de Milo’ and ‘David’ are available on www.touchingmasterpieces.com for free.
Describe the expectations/outcome
For the first time in history blind people can ‘see’ art through virtual touch.
The experience can now be realized globally, giving blind people access to previously unattainable masterpieces. The collection of accessible haptic models can grow endlessly, becoming an ever-growing digital library of accessible art for the blind.
And of course, it can go beyond Art and Sculpture.
The ‘Touching Masterpieces’ exhibition at Prague’s National Gallery, launched this message globally.
The video documentary of the experience was placed across social media. Pitched to numerous publications, it resulted in over 544 million impressions in 172 countries.
NeuroDigital's message of digital accessibility continues to spread across mainstream and viral media globally, and has started the debate about how much more Virtual Reality and technology can offer humanity.
NeuroDigital has received €1.5 Million funding for developing Avatar VR tech, that this time was adapted to create 'Touching Masterpieces' experience for the blind.