Museum uses Virtual Reality to allow blind people to ‘see’ famous sculptures
March 28 2018
By David Enns
Globally, it is estimated that approximately 1.3 billion people live with some form of distance or near vision impairment. Could Virtual Reality offer these people a new way to experience art?
The National Gallery of Prague this week launched ‘Touching Masterpieces,‘ a VR experience that allows visually impaired and blind visitors to ‘touch’ some of the museum’s most famous sculptures, including the bust of Nefertiti and Michelangelo’s David.
Created with help from Geometry Prague and NeuroDigital, in collaboration with the Leontinka Foundation for the blind and visually impaired, the virtual reality experience features haptic Avatar VR gloves, that gives three-dimensional feedback to mimic the feeling of touch.
‘Blind children are usually taught in school with relief aids and tactile pictures that far from accurately reflect reality,’ explains Barbara Hucková, executive director of the Leontinka Foundation. ‘This new technology is an incredible breakthrough allowing pupils to touch what was absolutely unattainable before.’
Though the exhibition was created for visually impaired visitors to experience art – the National Gallery of Prague encouraged all visitors to the exhibition to put on the haptic gloves and try the Touching Masterpieces experience.
Normally touching isn’t allowed in an art gallery, but using a haptic glove would break that barrier and bring an entirely new layer to the art experience – imagine being able to feel the artwork the way the artists did, hold the piece and be able to feel each texture the way the artists did as they were creating it.
The Touching Masterpieces exhibit ran from March 23 and 24 at Prague’s National Gallery, and is no longer up, but Geometry Prague made the 3D models available for download so you can experience it for yourself.