3D images and tech

A touching exhibition

New technology that creates three-dimensional, tactile versions of photographs is a unique aspect of Sight Unseen at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. The first museum exhibition in the world to use 3DPhotoWorks imagery, Sight Unseen enables people with vision loss to “see” these powerful images in a new way – through their fingertips.

Former LIFE magazine photographer John Olson started 3DPhotoWorks in 2008 with the goal of changing the way the blind “see” photography and art. The ability to experience and assess artwork – independently and without assistance – enhances freedom and equality. “For the first time, they'll have tactile, quality information that will be on a level playing field with the sighted,” he told People magazine last October, comparing his 3D imagery to the “difference between reading about a rose and smelling one.”

The images are created in a three-step process. First, the two-dimensional image is converted into 3D data. Next, the data is sent to a machine that sculpts the image in a block of substrate, giving it length, width, depth and texture. In the final step, the image is laid back down on top of the relief in perfect registration. Touch-activated sensors are also embedded in the prints to provide audio descriptions and narrative, creating context for a blind person who is viewing the image for the first time.



Mobile app

The Museum offers enhanced accessibility for people with vision loss through its mobile app, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store or Google Play (simply search “Canadian Museum for Human Rights”).

Exhibit text and images of the photography flow into the mobile app when visitors approach various Universal Access Points (UAPs) located throughout the gallery. The information can also be accessed by keying in the 3-digit UAP number, which is displayed both in raised figures and in braille. Cane stops on the floor alert blind visitors to the location of different exhibit elements.