3D printing for accessible education and mapping: A collaborative project in Australia and New Zealand
Leona Holloway: Hello, my name is Leona Holloway and I am a researcher from Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, with a background in accessible formats production. And I'm really pleased to be with you today to talk about 3D printing for accessible education and mapping, a collaborative project in Australia and New Zealand. Thank you for joining me. So, let's get started. OK, so we're conducting a three-year project looking at 3D printing for top traders. And obviously it's going to be a bit hard to cram three years into 20 minutes. So, what I'll do instead is give a really brief overview of the project goals and methods, and then we will... Drill down and look at just three key areas that hopefully are of interest to you, but along the way I'll also points to a lot of other resources where you can find out more about our project. So the project title is "Investigating 3D printing for access to graphics by people who are blind or have low vision." And it is a three year project supported by the Australian Research Council. It's administered by Monash University, but it's a linkage project. So, we're conducting it in partnership with our partners, Luckiest Partners, the Roundtable on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities Inc, which is an umbrella organization over Australia and New Zealand. Lots of different organizations, members, and in particular the South Pacific educators in Sydney are assisting with this project through Round Table. We also have partners with the Department of Education and Training Victoria, and they're accessible for that production team. The Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, Guide Dogs Victoria and the Royal Society for the Blind in Adelaide. So as partners, we're really grateful to be working with them. They're fantastic and they help with guiding these projects in terms of what we'll be looking at, as well as participating in evaluation of material. Our research goals are... The primary ones are to look at touch methods for accessing 3D printing models, which we'll talk about a little bit later. Also, design recommendations. So how in particular is that model is going to be used by a touch reader? What are some of the design considerations when you're creating that model and supporting the uptake of 3D printing in the community? The research is being conducted in two main application areas, so the first one is education. So, using 3D printers to support tactile literacy and also in particular, looking at STEM education. So technical materials, and second area is orientation and mobility, producing 3D printed maps to assist. Okay, so this slide has got a lot of text that you don't need to read right now. Basically, it just lists publications that we have out Inclusive Technologies Group at Monash University has put out relating to 3D printing. So, there's papers there, laboratory studies, and a lot of studies, you've got mapping, 3D printing for art, as well as the travel and also looking at interaction with 3D models. So please do look any of those up later if you're interested. All right, let's get stuck into more interesting stuff, so key findings, what we'll look at today is the issue of what to print. We'll also look at 3D symbols and then we'll look at principles for touch reading 3D printed models. Okay, so what should we be printing? This seems like an easy question. Basically, the first thing that we said as well, anything that's inherently 3D and we can't get access to them, that is a good candidate for 3D printing. So, if it was too big, for example, architecture, very difficult to feel what the roofs are like unless you shrink it down, anything that's too small, like a flat cell, for example, to rare, too expensive, too dangerous, can't be touched. Or maybe it's conceptual for things like... Mathematical 3D forms and not readily available or accessible in another form. So, you can't go to the shop and buy a little tourist model. But we can go and buy a little tourist model. We'll have the Eiffel Tower, that one, and we would say just buy the tourist model rather than 3D printing. But there are other things where it's a lot more difficult to obtain a model any other way. Actually, it turns out that it's not that easy to know what to print. So, there's still a lot of hesitancy among teachers in Australia and New Zealand about knowing what to ask for or they're asking for things they know... There would be other options. So, one of the things we've been doing is providing examples of things that can be 3D printed and will be a good idea on screen. I've got a number of pictures and the first one is a 3D printed model of the Arctic Circle with ice shelf from different years, which can be put on and off. That was developed by the Department of Education in New South Wales. There is a set of tiles for the water cycle, so different components of the water cycle and then arrows, this is tactile and also, in print so that it can be used by blind and sighted students together. And because it's got different components, you can pull some out to make it appropriate for whatever level you're working with. The next images of the Sydney Opera House 3D printed, and there's a tactile graphic, it's very difficult to understand that complex architecture, but using Australian model makes it a lot easier and also can help you to understand what the tactile graphic is meaning. The next example is eyebrow skin cells. So, it's got the six dots, swings out, and it's also little pigs that you can use to show the different formations of the brown letters. So that supporting... brow position, but also understanding the six-key entry. And that was produced by RIGBC. The next example is a Perkins Brailler finger guide, so, it slots into a Perkins Brailler and just help the fingers stay on the right keys, for new learners. And the last example I have there is a two story map of a school to help the students get oriented. So looking at all of those examples, I think that they, they really highlight the fact that 3D printing is not just suitable for supporting the curriculum in school, which is probably the first thing that we think of. It's also very useful to support tactile literacy. So whether that be obtaining Braille skills or just encouraging touch with more interactive and interesting things to touch. And thirdly it's useful for accessibility tools for the classroom, for things like that graphic design and extra things like maps. So I think that even when we're providing all of those examples, we still need to have, you need to have a good, exact, good understanding of the curriculum, you need to have a good understanding of that student and their particular needs in the classroom. So those are things that the teachers and other people know. But you also need to have a good understanding of just the practicalities of 3D printing design for things like overhangs, et cetera, all of those sorts of things that the designers will have a better understanding of. So there does need to be quite a lot of, I think, conversation between the teachers and designers in deciding what is practical and the best use of 3D printing. Okay, so turning now to 3D printed symbols for maps or for graphics as well. In our first comparative study where we were looking at tactile graphics, this is 3D prints, one of our findings was that the use of 3D printed symbols or icons for things like stairs or frontbenches, etc., they were a lot easier to understand as 3D prints than on the tactile graphic, and that then reduced the cognitive load. So it was easier to use a 3D model because it was easier to recognize what each of the symbols represented. And that funding was then backed up in another study that was done in the wilds where we had a lot of 3D symbols on a map and we had a case, but people were saying, well, I don't need to reference, okay, and that makes it easier for me because it's so easy to recognize some of these symbols. Not all of them were successful. The other finding that we've had in terms of feedback from people in other studies is that having 3D printed icons, they're very distinct, it makes it easier to find a route of travel or to trace between one point and another because it's easier to reference back and to find those two important points that you've got between All of those things tell us about 3D printing. 3D printed symbols are really useful, but what 3D printed symbols should we be using is the next question. So... We used a very iterative design process where we tried out lots and lots of things, did lots of testing, got lots of feedback, and what we found was that there's kind of three things that you need for a good tactile symbol that's 3D. So, it needs to be simple. It needs to be very distinct and individual, but not similar to other things. And it also needs to have the main features on top where you will certainly touch. So, for example, when we're looking at what's a good symbol for food, a lot of people suggested, well, you should have a plate with a knife and fork, but of course, once you reduce that down, you've just got a little disc with a couple of very small lines and it's not distinct enough. So it couldn't be recognized. Could have been anything. What we came up with instead was a bowl with chopsticks, which was a much more distinct shape and much easier to recognize. That was a very successful symbol. But once we put noodles into that noodle bowl, those noodles added a lot of complexity. People kind of distracted trying to figure out what they were, feeling them, and it became a much less successful symbol. So, simplicity is very important. The other example that I have on screen is a water tap, so we thought that that would be quite a distinct shape and would be useful to represent water. But what we found was that once it was fixed onto the map and you're reaching from the top, you just fill that top knob. But the distinct and important thing about the tap is the, the curved lip going down to the mouth of the tap. And that was not as easy to find. So, it was a more difficult symbol to interpret it. So, the main features, the most distinctive features need to be on the top of the symbol. Okay, and thirdly, looking at principles for touch reading 3D prints, based on our observations of touch readers exploring 3D prints, but also, with reference to touch guidelines for tactile graphics. That there are a lot of and very useful, and we also collaborated with some of our best touch readers who had been exposed to a lot of 3D prints to come up with some principles for touch reading 3D prints, so, five general principles. These principles are published on the Round Table website at Print Disability dot org. We've been producing our guidelines as we go in small sections, so this is one of the sections that is already available and there will be more by the end of the project. So, what I will do now is show a little video clip explaining those principles for touch reading. Principle 1: know what to expect. Context is essential to understanding. First, give the title and a broad overview. For example, this is a model of the peak of Mount Everest. A Braille label is giving me the base facing south. The model shows an area of approximately twenty-five kilometers along each side. Mt. Everest is 8.8 kilometers above sea level. This model shows only the very top. Also talk about how the properties of the model differs from the real objects. Most 3D prints are hollow and plastic, with ridges on the side where the layers are being built up. Is the real object more soft, flexible, heavy, smooth? What is it made of? What is its scale? There's nothing new about principle 1 except that anyone who's new to 3D printing needs to understand a bit about the production of 3D printing and how that affects how it feels. So, for example, anything with an overhang might feel rush underneath. Principle 2: gain an overview first. Use both hands with fingers spread to carefully fill the whole model. Smaller models can be rotated in the hands. Larger models should be explored systematically. While a systematic search can be conducted in the same way for every tactile graphic, the shape of the 3D print, and any parts that are protruding can affect the way that it's explored by touch. So, a more conscious effort might be needed to make sure that the whole model has been explored. Principal 3: use appropriate touch. Use the whole hand to understand the overall shape. Use curved fingers to explore details. A light touch may be needed to move over parts that stick out. Principle 4: use reference points for orientation and when exploring detail. The 3D print should first be given to the student in the correct orientation. Point out a prominent feature and its direction so that the correct orientation can be found again after it has been turned in the hands. As with tactile graphics, when exploring details, it is useful to keep one finger on a reference point while using the other hand to trace the line, pathway, or itch. Principle 5: explore the detail. Search the model for details not just on the outside, but also, towards the base and on the sides of the parts. Feel for holes or tunnels and special markers. Things like the underside of a bridge can be easily missed. If those features are important, then they should be mentioned in the description that's given with the 3D print, so that the touch reader can search for them. Okay, so what's next? 2020 was a fantastic year for requirements gathering, talking to people about what was needed or also doing a lot of designing and 3D printing at home that produced a lot of materials, but it wasn't so good for getting touch feedback. So, we're hoping that 2021 is the year when we will be able to get a lot of material out to people in the field and get their feedback. In particular, we will be testing textures. So, 3D printed textures, we've got a set of textures that we use as standards for tactile graphics that we'd like to have a standard set for 3D printing that we know are very distinct from one another. We'll also be looking at 3D printed straight crossings, the materials that On M instructors can use. And we'll also be looking at multipart or interactive models for education and testing those in the classroom. The other thing that we'll be doing, as I said, we've been releasing guidelines in part on the Round Table website, and we'd like to have a complete set ready by the end of the year. That's almost all from me for now. But first, I would like to speak with you about more about our project if it's of interest to you, and please do contact me or get involved. My email address is Leona dot Holloway at Monash dot edu, and my Twitter account is @LeonaHolloway20 You can follow our progress of that, of the project on accessible graphics dot org, we put monthly updates on there. Our guidelines are being published, as I said on the Round Table website. We've got five sets of guidelines already and there are more on the way. And you're most welcome to join the Australia and New Zealand Accessible Graphics Group, Facebook Group, We have a Facebook group for discussion, not just 3D prints but all types of accessible graphics. Love to chat with you there. Also, the ANZAGG group has a 3D printing group that meets monthly, we have about 30 members from Australia and New Zealand, mostly educators, at different stages of 3D printing, supporting each other in our adoption of 3D printing. And we do like to have monthly guests. So, if you're from overseas and would like to join us, please let me know. We'd love to have you come along. And finally, there's another Facebook group called Blind and Low Vision 3D Printing Group, where we discuss 3D printing for touch readers, but we also have a lot of discussion about how we can make the process of 3D design and production accessible. Okay, thank you very much for your time today, and I look forward to your questions.