A voice-activated machine combining web search engine technology with 3D printing is giving visually impaired school children in Tokyo the chance to experiment with what could be a glimpse into the future for the creation of live tactile teaching aids.
Called the ‘Hands On Search’, users speak the name of an object into the machine which then searches the internet for modelling data. The 3D printer then creates a miniature model of it, using materials such as plastic, carbon and metal. If the machine cannot find enough modelling data, a request for the data will be posted onto the Hands On Search public website.
Developed by Yahoo! Japan and Tokyo creative agency Hakuhodo Kettle, the Hands On Search device is currently on free loan to the Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired, a laboratory school of the University of Tsukuba.
The aim is to allow children who cannot search the internet conventionally an opportunity to experience the results of web searches through touch, as opposed to vision. A video by Yahoo! Japan shows the machine printing out small models of items whose names children have spoken into the machine, such as a giraffe, dinosaur and the Tokyo Skytree, a landmark building in the city.
Yahoo! Japan plan to donate Hands On Search to an organisation at the end of October, though it has not been decided who will receive it. There are currently no plans to make a commercial version of Hands On Search, the company has said.