UNESCO World Heritage Site Redesigned in 3D touch models with built-in audio technology from across Europe University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) that allows visually impaired people to learn, feel and connect with history.
Four World Heritage Sites including Besikica Aquilia (Italy), Alhambra Palace (Spain), Sibenik Cathedral (Croatia) and Rila Monastery (Bulgaria) were replicated, with the construction and production of models made by researchers Fine Printing Research Center At UWE Bristol.
Funded by the European Union Commission, UNESCO 4 All Tour A project made up of a consortium of partners from across Europe with the aim of making tourism products accessible to the visually impaired, making art and history more inclusive.
Enhance the experience
The models replicate the texture, design, and structure of historical sites and their artifacts, which users can connect through touch and experience. The model also has several built-in electronic near field connectivity (NFC) sensors that are triggered by small ring-like devices worn by users as they move their hands over different parts of the model.
Once triggered, the ring device vibrates and activates audio guides attached to an app on users’ smartphones or tablets, creating a multi-sensory experience.
“It is important that we continue to make our cultural spaces as accessible and inclusive as possible, so that people with disabilities have the opportunity to connect with history and the arts,” says Fabio D’Agnano, CFPR researcher and associate professor. Unfortunately, many museums, galleries and heritage sites still hold significant obstacles for the visually impaired, especially as many of these places do not allow you to touch exhibitions.
“This project shows how these barriers can be overcome with the use of new technology and how the visually impaired can benefit.”
Each model took hundreds of hours to build, with many stages of production performed by researchers at CFPR. This included translating real objects into digital models through photogrammetry, digital 3D modeling, and digital sculpting. The digital models were then created using various materials and techniques, including computer numerically controlled (CNC) routing, laser cutting and engraving, and resins 3D printing.
One of the main challenges for the researchers was to create an exact replica of the artwork, of considerable size and at reasonable expense, while ensuring that the material was easy to maintain and pleasant to touch.
“It took a lot of time and thought to develop these models so that we could create the best multisensory experience,” says Mr. D’Agnano. The views of the visually impaired were important throughout the process and focus groups were organized to gather their feedback on the utility and design of the models. I am very proud of what the project has achieved and hope that many more historical sites and museums will consider using this technology. ”
Earlier this year, the UNESCO 4 All Tour was selected as the Best Project in the Digital Category of Shaping Europe European Union Industry Day 2021 Conference; One of the major events of the European Commission.
Main Image Credit: Renato Vukiki