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Japan to make 3D maps for blind

Japan, September 25, 2014: Japan's cartographic authorities are developing a software which would allow users to download publicly available data, and using a 3D printer produce low-cost tactile maps for the visually impaired of different parts of the country.

The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan, or GSI, alongwith the department of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is currently working with experts from different regions on the development phase. The software will ensure that highways, walkways and railway lines can be differentiated in the final product.

The program's data will allow users to print streets that are raised one millimetre off the surface and can be easily detected with the fingers. Plans are in the works to introduce topographical features, such as uneven surfaces and hills, so these maps can be used in courses for the blind focused on earthquake- or tsunami-related evacuations and other emergencies.

Once developed, the software will offer access to all the publicly available cartographic data of Japan needed to create such maps. Maps of urban zones will be on a scale of 1:2,500 (1 centimetre equals 25 meters) while those of rural areas will be on a scale of 1:25,000 (1 centimetre equals 250 meters).

The maps are to be printed on resin sheets measuring 15×15 cm, which cost $1.40 per unit. The printers needed to print the maps cost between $552 and $644 in Japan. Given the popularity of 3D printers, data needed to make maps of very specific sites could be made available at prior request, an official from GSI told media.

Source: Global Post