HaptoRender is an OpenStreetmap project that will produce static maps, repeatable 3D print-outs, focusing on small areas for the blind and visually impaired.

Originally brought to my attention by @metazool and @RealIvanSanchez when they stumbled upon the ‘sort-of haptic map’ in Edinburgh, pictured above.

“…what is meant to be a 3D map that would give a blind person an impression of the scale and scope of Edinburgh and the beautiful built things in it. It gives an impression only; it’s not an accurate map of Edinburgh streets, not reliable for building a mental model with.

The plaque announces its purpose in Braille and text; but the labels on the map are just text, not braille. So this is more of a pseudo haptic map.”

Started in April 2009 by Lulu-Ann, HaptoRender is planned to be a renderer that uses OpenStreetmap data to create tactile maps for blind and visually impaired persons.  The first known tactile map based on OSM data published on May 12, 2009. It is a copper sheet with the size of an DIN A4 paper sheet. This was shown (and touched) at the SOTM 2009 in Amsterdam.  It is easy to see how well 3D printing is suited to a project such as this that would enable the blind and visually impaired to navigate a new city with a better understanding of the lay of the land, where hills, open spaces, bridges and buildings are in relation to each other.  Perhaps it is the sort of thing they could have sent to them (via Shapeways) prior to visiting a city to enable them to study it in advance.

If you would like to get involved in the HaptoRender project visit their wiki at OpenStreetmap