An innovative use of virtual reality has people who are blind experiencing visual art like never before. NeuroDigital Technologies developed an exhibit called Touching Masterpieces that links haptic gloves to virtual 3D models of famous sculptures. When the gloves come into contact with a virtual sculpture, they vibrate in specific ways that reproduce both the shape and texture of the masterpiece. The person wearing the gloves can feel the sculpture via these vibrations, making it possible for those who cannot see artwork to experience it nonetheless.

Touching Masterpieces was introduced at the National Gallery of Prague earlier this year and can now be downloaded and used by anyone with the proper equipment (VR headset, haptic gloves, etc.). The program lets users experience three of the most famous sculptures ever produced: Michelangelo’s David, the Venus de Milo, and the bust of Nefertiti. Visually impaired people who have tried the haptic glove exhibit say this is the first time they have been able to experience visual art with touch. While this tech can’t make entire museums accessible, it can give those who are visually impaired an alternative way to see beloved artwork.

How does this experience make art more inclusive? How could this VR experience be more interesting or beneficial than having actual 3D replicas of statues available to touch? Join the discussion on Vialogues.

Excerpts from the discussion:

@00:25 RuthS: This seems like an inclusive experience, but I wonder about how practical it is. It does seem like 3D printing replicas of more than three statues could provide for an inclusive experience as well, but one that would need less high-tech equipment.

@00:36 Ryan Allen: Seems like this option is just a lot cheaper, meaning it will be accessible to more people. Really, anyone can experience art digitally through this method.