Japan's official mapping organization is developing software that makes tactile maps for the visually impaired using 3D printing technology. GSI is creating a program that will allow the blind to print out 3D versions of maps found online.
The governmental department already has paper maps for the blind with embossed surfaces to identify roads. This development will do something similar for maps in the digital form by differentiating highways, pedestrian walkways and rail lines. GSI's software will make a 3D model with different textures so blind people will be able to determine what is what by running their finger over it. The tactile maps will also include accurate topographies using contour lines.
Users will require their own 3D printer, but the GSI counters the technology is becoming increasingly affordable.