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Tactile graphics and models are an important component in the education of blind and visually impaired children. Perception of the spacial context is necessary for many different school subjects. However, for blind and visually impaired people this information is perceivable by sense of touch only. Additionally, a verbal description and explanation is essential for understanding the subject. This acoustic support can be given either by a pedagogue or by a computer in terms of Computer Aided Training.

This is where the idea of 3D-Finger applies:

2 cameras watching a 3D model on a table

A computer traces, by means of video cameras, the exploration of the tactile graphics or model and plays back the corresponding comment or other aural content. Using the PC, the teacher records all descriptions and explanations via microphone first. The use of other audio effects (music, sound) is, of course, possible, too, as is the use of a speech synthesiser. Afterwards the acoustic elements are assigned to the respective areas on the tactile map or model. For the haptic exploration of the model or graphics the finger of the child is marked with an adhesive coloured marker. The computer traces this marker by means of the video cameras. If the marker reaches one of the previously defined areas the corresponding audio information is played back.

The objective of this feasibility study was to evaluate the realisability of the 3D-Finger idea under the requirement that the system shall be executable on computers already available in schools with only little additional expenses.

This study was financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Culture.

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