Innovation That Matters

In Japan, web search 3D-prints results for visually impaired


Yahoo! Japan has created Hands On Search, a machine that allows users to search by voice and receive a result in 3D-printed form.


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The web is largely a visual experience, which can mean that those with blindness or sight impairments can’t make the most of it. To tackle this problem, researchers in Japan have created the Hands On Search, a machine that allows users to search by voice and receive a result in 3D-printed form.

Developed by online media company Yahoo! Japan, the device was created to provide a physical version of its popular web search tool. The large machine has been initially installed at the Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired, which is part of the University of Tsukuba, where elementary-aged children with sight problems could search for objects. By pressing a button on the front of the machine, the kids could say what they wanted to search for. The computer than retrieves a matching from result from its database of 3D files and begins to print the model. Still in its early stages, the database currently holds 110 different models. If the search doesn’t return a relevant result, the machine automatically posts ads across the web asking designers to donate a relevant model for the school. The video below shows the Hands On Search in action:

Hands On Search could be an essential tool to help children with sight problems engage more with the web through tactile learning, but also offers a glimpse into how 3D printing could help make a more seamless connection between the online and physical worlds. Is there an end to the innovative uses for 3D printing?



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