Researchers develop tactile book with sound

Scientists have developed a prototype children’s book to enhance the experience of young readers with sight loss

A hand rests on the right-hand page of a book. The fingers walk up a miniature three dimensional staircase.
Dannyelle Valente/SMAS/Les Doigts qui rêvent

A new study in British Journal of Visual Impairment has described a tactile children’s book with sound effects to enhance the experience of young readers with vision loss.

French and Swiss scientists developed the prototype book with the help of a group of 11 children with different levels of vision loss between the ages of five and 12.

The book contains four double-page spreads – each with a different tactile scene and associated sound effect. Objects featured include a miniature staircase linked to the sound of footsteps, a field of flowers with an associated soundscape featuring birdsong, a creaking door, and a mouse that squeaks.

The reader is asked to perform a specific action to trigger the sound effect, such as walking their fingers up the staircase or knocking on the miniature door.

A book is open on the table. A door is pictured on the page with a small metal button that forms the handle.
Dannyelle Valente/SMAS/Les Doigts qui rêvent

Following on from the initial prototype, the project team is working with the publishing house, Les Doigts Qui Rêvent, to develop a new book that will incorporate conductive fabrics and electronic circuits. It is expected that this new book will be launched on the market soon.

Scientists from University of Geneva, Université Lumière Lyon 2 and the Université Paris 8 collaborated with the publishing house on the project.

Study author, Dannyelle Valente, of the University of Geneva and Université Lumière Lyon 2, shared that while tactile books are already on the market, understanding the illustrations they contain often relies on previous visual experience.

"The idea was to offer an experience that better matched the sensory experience of children with visual impairment, so that they could identify objects they may never have seen before,” she said.

Main image: a prototype book containing a miniature staircase. The sound of footsteps is made each time the fingers touch a stair.