Innovation Beyond Sight: Touch2See’s 3D Printed Device for Visually Impaired Sports Fans

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In a world where every thrill of the game plays out before our eyes, Toulouse startup Touch2See steps forward as a pioneer of innovation, offering a tactile solution for the visually impaired. Their groundbreaking interactive tablet allows them to experience games through touch and sound, bringing the excitement of sports to life in a whole new dimension. At the core of this device, the team uses 3D printing to ensure precision engineering and customization for a unique user experience.

By integrating ultra-fast analysis of sports data, artificial intelligence (AI), and 5G technology, Touch2See’s tablet provides real-time tactile and auditory feedback. In the form of a miniature sports field, the tablet reproduces the movements of the ball and the players in real-time using haptic feedback and vibrations: a magnetic cursor reproduces the position of the ball in real-time, the vibration reflects the intensity of the game, and an audio description provides precise information about the game. Users can track the ball’s movements with a magnetic cursor, feel game intensity through haptic feedback, and receive interactive audio descriptions, facilitating complete immersion and understanding of sporting events.

Founded by Arthur Chazelle, Touch2See emerged from a passion for bridging the gap in sports coverage for the visually impaired. Chazelle was inspired by a viral video showing César Daza, a Colombian interpreter providing sports commentary for the visually impaired in the U.S., describing a football match in Bogotá stadium to a blind spectator using a miniature model. Chazelle, a first-year computer science student at the time, envisioned a technological solution to make sports coverage accessible to the visually impaired and blind. This vision led him to create a prototype allowing visually impaired individuals to follow sports matches through touch.

After receiving recognition and winning prizes for his prototype, Chazelle officially established Touch2See on May 25, 2022, and dedicated his time entirely to the project. This journey marked the beginning of Touch2See’s mission to modernize how visually impaired people experience sports, blending touch-sensitive technology and audio description to create an immersive sports experience.

Touch2See founder Arthur Chazelle with his device.

Central to Touch2See’s success is its strategic use of 3D printing. With four 3D printers in its offices, including FDM and stereolithography printers, Touch2See leverages the flexibility of 3D printing to create bespoke parts tailored to its users’ needs. This not only ensures adaptability but also allows for in-house production and cost-effective scalability.

“3D printing has played a key role in the development and scaling up of our solutions at Touch2See. This technology has enabled us to design and produce our tablets at a reasonable cost from the outset, avoiding the need for external funding. Thanks to the flexibility offered by 3D printing, we have been able to innovate quickly and adapt our products to the specific needs of our customers, making it possible to create customized solutions that would have been financially unaffordable using other manufacturing methods,” explained Chazelle to 3DPrint.com.

Touch2See provided its tablets to visually impaired people for all men’s and women’s France football matches in 2024.

3D printing plays a pivotal role in Touch2See’s ability to innovate rapidly. By using FDM printers for less demanding parts during the prototyping phase and a stereolithography printer when a more substantial finish is required or when the part will be visible in use, Touch2See optimizes its production processes. This strategic approach enables the company to iterate designs quickly, ensuring continuous adaptation to its customers’ evolving needs.

Additionally, the choice of materials for 3D printing is carefully considered at Touch2See. The company uses an enhanced version of PLA (Polylactic Acid Plus) called PLA+ for FDM prints due to its accessibility and good impact resistance, ensuring durability and reliability in the final products. For external elements that require a good finish and a pleasant feel, Touch2See uses the composite material ABS-type PU, which combines the durability and heat resistance of ABS with the flexibility and softness of PU, resulting in a product that not only looks good but also feels comfortable to the touch.

Touch2See explained that the team uses a meticulous CAD process to create its tactile tablets. This process begins with comprehensive research and identification of the specific needs of users, ensuring that the tablet’s functionality is perfectly adapted to improve accessibility. The team then uses CAD software to model the tablet’s components in 3D, allowing for virtual visualization and thorough testing of ergonomics and functionality. Once the design is finalized, the CAD files are seamlessly translated into physical parts via 3D printing, providing great flexibility in design iteration and continuous improvement based on customer feedback.

The original prototype of the Touch2See device was tested at the Stade de France one year ago.

However, Touch2See’s commitment to accessibility goes beyond innovation and 3D printing; it’s about creating a seamless experience for visually impaired sports enthusiasts. Their out-of-the-box solution is designed for easy installation and use, allowing autonomous use throughout stadiums, with plug-and-play for automatic connection to sports data.

What’s more, the tablet can be personalized with club colors, offering complete immersion for fans and enabling users to interact with their environment and fully experience the stadium atmosphere. The focus is to help everyone enjoy the game better, so Touch2See aims to make sports accessible across multiple disciplines, including soccer, rugby, basketball, and upcoming sports like tennis, handball, hockey, and American football.

A visually impaired man is testing the tablet at the Rugby World Cup 2023.

According to the French startup, one of the main challenges in its early days was finding customers.

“Establishing ourselves in this environment was complicated. However, the approval and support of associations for the visually impaired and blind, as well as the prizes we won, quickly raised the profile of our project. This recognition led to growing interest in our solution. This momentum has enabled us to gradually establish ourselves in the sports sector. And so, thanks to our unique approach and our commitment to accessibility, we have overcome these obstacles and established our company as a major player in the sector,” says Chazelle.

Touch2See founder Arthur Chazelle at the CAF TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations 2023 in the Ivory Coast.

Collaborations with TotalEnergies and the Confederation of African Football (CAF) have propelled Touch2See onto the world stage, allowing visually impaired fans across Africa to experience major sporting events like never before. The deployment of 3D printed tablets at the 2023 African Cup of Nations marked a significant milestone for the startup, reaching fans outside France for the first time. The solution covered key matches, including Egypt vs Ghana and South Africa vs DR Congo, offering an immersive experience to visually impaired African fans. Hand-in-hand with TotalEnergies, Touch2See’s participation has enhanced accessibility and inclusion in football thanks to integrating its technology into stadiums.

Accessibility in sports remains a big challenge, especially for fans with disabilities. The 2023 Level Playing Field Annual Fan Survey shows that 30% of disabled fans can’t attend certain sports events due to accessibility issues. Key reasons include feeling anxious, lacking confidence, and dealing with logistical problems. The survey points out problems like buying tickets, how inclusive stadiums are, and transportation challenges. Online researcher Orange says a huge 87% of visually impaired people still struggle to access sports events easily. Hopefully, Touch2See will help change this status quo.

As Chazelle’s startup gears up for industrialization, its focus remains on quality, innovation, and broader accessibility. By expanding its product line and integrating new technologies, it aims to extend its impact, making sports truly accessible to all, regardless of disability.

All images courtesy of Touch2See.

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