Next 3-D Printing Miracle -- Toys for Blind Kids

OK, OK, so we've all heard the hype about 3-D printing -- and I must confess, I still don't get it.  Guns and groceries and even kidneys, they're doing it all.  But what if you heard about something really good they're doing with 3-D printing?

Like making toys for blind kids.

According to, that's exactly what's happening. "'Hands On Search' is a 3-D printer housed in a bulbous cloud and outfitted with a voice-based user interface that can be used to produce all sorts of plastic miniatures — from giraffes and dragons to planes and buildings — on demand," Janet Fang reports.

And with it, kids can print out toys they can touch.

Seems pretty simple. As Fang explains: After pushing a big button, students can shout out something they want to touch. Once the voice-activated search engine finds 3-D information, the search item is printed on the spot as a tangible, solid object. A teacher might need to peel extra plastic bits off the final printed products.

What's behind this pretty miraculous-seeming application is voice search, which makes hands-free browsing possible.

The big deal is that blind kids can now do something their lack of sight always prevented them from doing in the past: make an object that they can visualize in their brains, then actually feel, along with the satisfaction of no longer being limited in what they can do with their hands, and their heads.


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