Published November 21, 2022
The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental (IDEA) in the School of Architecture and Planning and Touch Graphics Inc. have collaborated to create a multisensory, interactive, 3D touch model to assist with orientation and wayfinding on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC).
The IDEA Center received a gift from the Chur Foundation in January 2021 and used the funds to design, develop and install the model.
The recently unveiled interactive model is located at the BNMC’s Innovation Center, a home base for campus tours, and a site that provides services for over 100 startup companies and serves as a hub for research and knowledge exchange. The touch model allows users to preview the campus layout, locate buildings and identify travel routes. A user-friendly touch interface that includes visual, auditory and tactile outputs allows visitors to simply hear or see information related to both the campus and individual buildings.
All features of the model are touch responsive, including roads, parks, parking lots and Metro stations. Additional features for accessibility and legibility include braille labels and aerial photographs of building rooftops printed on the 3D buildings.
“We are so grateful to our colleagues at the IDEA Center for bringing this project to us,” says Jamie Hamann-Burney, director of planning and implementation for the BNMC. “The model unites a range of technologies being developed at the center that will speed the creation of more inclusive environments for everyone.”
The design of the model was developed by first documenting the campus, drawing digital models of the campus’ buildings and landscape, 3D-printing the buildings, and laser-printing a tactile skin of the landscape. The 3D buildings were treated with a conductive layer and then both tactile skin and the 3D buildings were adhered to the large touch screen. The model works by simple touch commands, including tapping once to hear the name of the building and a second time to hear descriptive information. An application was developed to listen to finger touch and provide a corresponding audio description.
“The touch model is an excellent example of how inclusive technology benefits a broad range of users,” says Heamchand Subryan, director of interaction design at the IDEA Center. “We’re hoping that this touch model is not only useful for the visitors and staff of the BNMC, but also inspires the thought leaders and tech developers at the Innovation Center to consider the needs of individuals with disabilities in their own work.”
In addition to the BNMC, similar touch models have been installed at large tech companies, museums and a national park. The BNMC touch model demonstrates how integrating universal design into wayfinding technology can benefit all visitors and serve as a best practice for similar maps at other medical campuses.