3D Printing

The SHIVA Project Brings The Gift of Art to Disabled Children using 3D Modelling and 3D Printing

Sculpting with clay or using pens or paints can be very difficult and frustrating for a disabled person who may be unable to use their hands reliably. However, not having the tools to express it doesn’t mean that the disabled don’t have imaginations. Artistic activities have long been a tool to help recovering trauma patients and disabled children therapeutically express themselves, but people and especially children with disabilities often find it difficult to create art using conventional methods.

shiva 3d printing

While Rachel was in Nottingham last week, she heard from Professor Alexander Pasko about a project in this area. SHIVA – Sculpture for Health-care: Interaction and Virtual Art in 3D – is a 3D design and 3D printing program that can be used by most disabled children and even rehabilitation patients regardless of their physical challenges. Educators from Victoria Education Center in the UK, a school for children who have physcal disabilities, have helped researchers from the University of Lille and the National Centre for Computer Animation at Bournemouth University, where Alexander works, to develop a simple 3D modelling program that can be customized to work with any individual users physical or cognitive disabilities. The key was creating a system adaptable enough to be used by a multitude of students with various sets of physical and cognitive limitations while still being simple to use and engaging.

The biggest challenge they faced was the user interface. Most of us use a touchscreen or a mouse and keyboard to interact with our devices, however many disabilities make that type of interaction difficult. The team needed to create an interface that was highly customizable for a great variety of disabilities. The SHIVA program can be completely customized depending on the specific needs of the individual. A simplified touch screen that reacts to hand or stylus input can be employed or it can be controlled through a program that records and reads eye movements, allowing the user to interact with the program without needing to use their hands.

The display itself is also completely customizable, so cells can be rearranged, simplified or adapted to suit dozens of different types of disabilities and challenges. The screen colours and cell size can even be adjusted in order to assist people who are visually impaired, for instance it could have a black background with yellow controls, making it easier for someone with a visual impairment to see. Any settings that have been tailored to a specific individual can be saved and easily retrieved at the start of each session with the program.

One of the issues that arose is that when designing software and hardware interfaces for the disabled it is essential to make sure that by the time you put the software in front of them it is working as well as it possibly can. Complex software is, inevitably, going to have bugs and unintended glitches in it. When we run into these glitches or bugs most of us would simply blame the software – whether it was at fault or not – however the disabled tend to blame themselves and assume that it isn’t working correctly because they did something wrong.

The program itself uses a collection of a few basic shapes, the number and variety can be adjusted based on the needs of the user, and a few simple 3D editing, rotational and object blending tools. Students can select shapes with their interface of choice and combine it with other shapes, manipulate the scale, and even remove portions of the shapes. In order to give users a starting point they settled on a virtual stick that the user can then manipulate by dropping 3D objects onto it and moving them around into multiple configurations. Of course the stick is completely removable if the users or educators have no use for it. They have essentially reduced the complex process of a standard 3D modelling program into a very simple series of operations that wouldn’t overwhelm disabled users.

shiva 3d printing

The project has been enabling young disabled students at the Victoria Education Centre to design digitally in 3D, and reportedly, the responses have been tremendous. The models have subsequently been 3D printed to give the kids tangible models of their creativity. It was actually the placement of the 3D printer into the school that brought the whole thing alive for the children and engaged them — “it brought the whole thing alive,” according to Professor Pasko.

The SHIVA project has been running from 2010 until this year and it was funded by INTERREG IVA 2 Seas Programme, an inter-national organisation that supports cross border cooperation between schools, charities and businesses from England, France, Belgium-Flanders and the Netherlands. They help fund projects that involve economic development, environmental issues and quality of life issues. You can find out more about SHIVA at the Applied Shapes website, the company that will support and distribute SHIVA when it is ready to be made public.