Prague’s National Gallery introduces a tactile VR experience for the blind.
Over 253 million people in the world are visually impaired, and often times the only way they can experience artwork is with someone describing the art to them in detail.
Touching Masterpieces is an art exhibit at Prague’s National Gallery that lets you experience art through VR, but not with a VR headset. Instead the VR experience is delivered through the sense of touch; using haptic gloves that give you the ability to feel artwork through physical feedback.
The project started with a company called NeuroDigital, a Spanish VR startup that successfully launched and funded their Kickstarter campaign for Gloveone back in 2015. Gloveone is a haptic feedback glove that uses 10 strategically placed sensors within the wearable that vibrates at different frequencies to create the sensation of touch in a virtual environment.
Once NeutroDigital’s project was funded, the company saw an opportunity to use the technology to break the barriers in the art world. They collaborated with Geometry Prague and Leontinka Foundation for the Blind and Visually Impaired to re-create 3D models of masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s David, the Venus de Milo, and the bust of Nefertiti.
“Blind children are usually taught in school with relief aids and tactile pictures that far from accurately reflect reality,” said Barbara Hucková, executive director of Leontinka Foundation. “This new technology is an incredible breakthrough allowing pupils to touch what was absolutely unattainable before.”
Though Touching Masterpieces was created as a way for the visually impaired to experience art – it isn’t just for the blind. The museum encouraged anyone who attended the exhibit to try the gloves and experience art in a new way.
For museums and many art enthusiasts, experiencing art visually or verbally is just part of the 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.
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.
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.