Hyderabad: The Fittle project, a Braille embossed 3-D printable puzzle that helps the visually impaired to experience shapes of the objects formed when the pieces of the puzzle are put together, is now being introduced to different schools for the visually impaired in the city. Barely months old, Fittle, developed by the city-based LV Prasad Eye Institute with leading puzzle maker Ravensburger, has developed puzzles for simple words for the entire English alphabet. “So far, we have developed the Fittle puzzles with one word for each of the letters of the alphabet,” K Srinath Reddy, the project coordinator for Fittle at LVPEI’s Srujana Centre for Innovation, told Telangana Today.
The Fittle puzzles are currently being used at LVPEI’s rehabilitation centre for visually impaired children and have been tried out at the city-based Devnar School for the Blind, and the Government High School for Blind Boys at Darushifa. “We plan to take it to other schools for the visually impaired soon,” Srinath Reddy said. The learning potential from the Fittle puzzles, with each block embossed with its letter in Braille on it, has been such that the project has already been taken to the next level.
“All the puzzles are available as free downloads and anyone with a 3-D printer can print them. The motive is not to make a profit from Fittle but to enhance learning among the visually impaired. We operate on an honour system,” Raghu Gollapalli, executive director, emerging technologies and business development at LVPEI, said. These puzzles can be downloaded from fettle-project.com
The second generation of Fittle has come from a school for the visually impaired in China, that has tied up with a developer in that country and has been 3-D printing realistic and life-like puzzles for different words. “The limitation here is the kind of 3-D printers that are available at present. For doing what the school in China is doing requires 3-D printers that are capable of printing industrial scale objects of complex shapes,” he said.
According to Srinath Reddy, Fittle is an educational toy that has empowered the visually impaired. Instead of ‘reading’ books in Braille and learning words, those putting together the puzzles can actually feel the shape of the object. For instance, four-piece puzzle for the word ‘boat’, when put together, helps the user understand the actual shape of a boat.
Asked how the words for Fittle have been selected, Srinath Reddy explained that a conscious effort was made to choose words that visually impaired students may have heard or been somewhat familiar with but have no way of getting a feel for a real object the word stands for.
“Nearly everyone knows the word bat and can understand its shape. So we selected words that would not be easy to ‘feel’ in real life,” he said. So the Fittle puzzles include words like rocket, violin, fish and boat. They also include words for some common objects such as key. While the Fittle project was developed at LVPEI, Ravensburger, one of the world’s leading puzzle maker, provides the final designs with respect to how the pieces of the word puzzles fit with each other, Raghu Gullapalli said.