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Blind people experience art via 3D technology


11-03-2016 05:25 BJT

Blind people can now experience famous artworks thanks to a project that turns them into 3D, touchable reliefs. "The Kiss" by Austrian artist Gustav Klimt is one work featured in the project.

"The Kiss" by Gustav Klimt is probably the most famous painting in Vienna.

Over a million people try to get a good look at the masterpiece every year.

Since taking pictures of the original is prohibited, visitors at the Belvedere museum gather at the "selfie-point" next door where they can snap a picture with a printed copy.

And now the iconic image is being made available to blind and visually impaired people, thanks to an EU-funded project which has created a 3D relief version.

Andreas Reichinger is a scientist at the "VRV" centre for virtual reality and visualisation in Vienna. He's been working on turning flat paintings into touchable 3D reliefs for five years now.

Using a high resolution scan of the original, he set out to carve the "The Kiss" into a piece of plastic using a high-tech milling machine.

"I've been doing research since 2010 to turn paintings into 3D reliefs especially for blind and disabled visitors."The Kiss" so far was my most difficult exhibit. There are very figurative and physical parts. And on the other hand there are these very flat and ornamental areas. It was important to find a good trade off here that carves out the plastic parts in a three-dimensional manner and at the same time to portray the seemingly flat parts still as flat in the relief," Andreas Reichinger said.

One of the first blind people to experience the touchable version of the painting is Dominika Raditsch. She lost her eyesight when she was four.

She says touching the relief recreates Klimt's image in her mind's eye - even down to the gilded surface.

"It's somehow round. It's entangled. It's round. You can feel it. You can feel it. It comes with it. And in many places it's so smooth. And then I think to myself: it probably shines too! I can't see it but that's what I think. It incites the imagination. You have to say it, it's so, lot's of gold. It comes through!" Dominika Raditsch said.

The Belvedere museum is now planning to provide an interactive audio guide for blind people. With the help of cameras and sensors, the audio guide will explain each part of the relief as they are being touched.

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