Popular Culture

3D Artwork Lets the Blind Experience The World’s Greatest Paintings By Touch


A new innovation is being called the greatest invention for the blind since the introduction of Braille 200 years ago: 3D works of art that allow blind people to interact with the greatest works of art by touch, thus allowing them to truly experience the Mona Lisa, Starry Night, or George Washington crossing the Delaware River, sometimes for the first time ever.

Technology is a beautiful thing.

The mastermind behind these vivid, beautiful 3D constructions is John Olson, who started his company 3D Photoworks in 2008. He has spent seven years producing a patented printing process to recreate versions of great works of art that blind people can “see” through touch. The results are astounding, as the video above makes clear.



Luc Gandarias, a 12-year-old boy who went blind at the age of seven, spoke to People about the emotional and intense experience he had interacting with the painting “George Washington Crossing The Delaware”:

It was the most vivid thing I’ve felt since I lost my sight. It had texture and such incredible detail that I almost felt like I was there.

“I thought I would go the rest of my life without seeing something beautiful like this. But now, I don’t have to.”

Not only is the print 3D, it’s also responsive. Certain points of the work are embedded with touch-activated sensors that provide audio information about the artwork as the person is exploring its surface through touch.

In the future, Olson’s goal is to have 3D versions of every painting available in every museum in the world, to place blind people at a “level playing field” with sighted people, because a world without art is “unimaginable.”

Olson said, “my goal is take this everywhere,” and calls his 3D art the “difference between reading about a rose and smelling one.” Olson has plans to approach American museums as early as this year about incorporating 3D exhibits.



This technology, simple yet executed with complexity, will allow the blind to have equal accessibility to visual art, a world that is necessarily closed to them.

If you’d like to be a part of this amazing innovation, donate to their Kickstarter campaign here.

Lisa Lo Paro
Lisa is a freelance writer and bibliophile living on the outskirts of New York City. She likes 2 a.m. with a good book, takes cream in her coffee and heavily filters her photos. Check out her blog The Most Happy, her Instagram, and Twitter.

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