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Tactile technology brings world-famous paintings to life for blind people

A special version of one of the world’s most well-known paintings has been created through 3D-printing, so that people with sight loss can experience it by touch.

The tactile, ‘3D relief’ version of Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’ also features a series of audio triggers that explain different elements of the new work to visitors when they run their fingers over certain areas.

Housed in the Belvedere Museum in Vienna – the same museum that holds Klimt’s original ‘The Kiss’ – the 3D version has been developed through AMBAVis (Access to Museums for Blind and Visually Impaired People), a European Union-funded project that aims to improve the museum experience for blind and visually impaired visitors through 3D technology and “multi-sensory approaches”. ‘The Kiss’ is the seventh relief work developed through the project, with previous works housed in other museums around Europe.

The tactile version of ‘The Kiss’ sits in the Belvedere on a pedestal next to Klimt’s original, which was painted by the artist using oil paint mixed with gold leaf. Measuring 42 by 42 centimetres, the tactile version depicts the painting’s two figures – entwined and wearing colourful robes – entirely in white and with various features of the work available to explore by hand. For example, the robes feature intricate patterns that can be felt by touch.

Andreas Reichinger (who works in semantic modelling and acquisition at VRVis, a visual computing research institution in Austria) led many of the technical design aspects of the 3D version of ‘The Kiss’. Reichinger told e-Access Bulletin that the accessible cultural work of AMBAVis will be expanded in a new project, called ARCHES.

Reichinger said: “In ARCHES we will take things to the next level, and aim to include people not only with difficulties in vision, but with differences and difficulties associated with all kinds of perception, memory, cognition and communication.”

Six new relief works are planned for ARCHES, and each will be housed in a different participating museum, including two in London – the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Wallace Collection.

Both AMBAVis and ARCHES are funded through the Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020 programs. AMBAVis has been running for two years and is partnered with a number of European organisations, including the VRVis Centre for Virtual Reality and Visualisation Research, and the Austrian and German Federations of the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Read more at the Belvedere Museum’s website:
http://eab.li/3p .

Find out more about AMBAVis at the project website:
http://eab.li/3q .

Read more about the ARCHES project:
http://eab.li/3u .

Subscribe to e-Access Bulletin’s monthly digital accessibility newsletter for free at the following link:
eab.li/10 .

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