‘Touching Masterpieces’ VR Exhibit Allows Visually Impaired To ‘See’ Art

Three pieces of historical art come to life for the blind. No headset necessary.

A joint venture between NeuroDigital, Geometry Prague, the Leontinka Foundation and the National Gallery of Prague, Touching Masterpieces is an experimental VR exhibit allowing the visually impaired to “see” famous works of art for the first-time.

By using UV unwraps and re-topology to modify 3D laser scans of three famous sculptures: Michelangelo’s David, Venus de Milo and the bust of Nefertiti, developers were able to eventually codify the shadows made by various features such as the hips, lips, eyes, etc and translate that new information into specific vibration patterns. The result is a real tactile experience bursting with detailed textures.

Using NeuroDigital’s proprietary Avatar VR haptic gloves, visitors are then able to feel each minor feature on the art via detailed vibrations. With up to 1,024 different varieties of vibration patterns available in just these three VR pieces alone, the brain is easily able to develop a genuine sense of touch throughout the experience. This allows those suffering from bad eyesight to finally “see” these beautiful creations through a series of realistic, tactile sensations.

“It was definitely a unique experience. At first I was totally lost,” spoke Jakob Blazek, a visually impaired student, when speaking with BBC. “I could actually put my hand in the statue – something that you normally wouldn’t do, you know what I mean?”
“The vibrations felt much stronger when touching other parts of the body which was very, very helpful to understand what is happening and where I am really touching. So I appreciate that because I got to see things that i normally am never going to see.”

Touching Masterpieces made its premiere back in March at the National Gallery of Prague.
Looking to enjoy this sensory experience yourself? You can download the masterpieces yourself via the Touching Masterpieces website for free. You will need to provide the necessary hardware yourself, however. This includes the Avatar VR gloves.
Image Credit: NeuroDigital
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