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Images: Visual relief for the nearly blind

MIT fellow Elizabeth Goldring leads research and produces art designed to stimulate visual activity among the nearly blind.
By Bill Detwiler, Contributor on
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color-seeing machine

Elizabeth Goldring, director of the Visual Experiences for the Blind Group at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies, has collaborated for more than 15 years on a machine that allows people who normally see only light and shadows to see words and images. This color-seeing machine allows viewers to conduct virtual walk-throughs of architectural spaces.

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retinal print "Dome"

In addition to directing the Visual Experiences for the Blind Group at MIT, Goldring also creates art. Her "retina prints" layer a featured image, taken with a digital camera, over the image of a retina, a symbol of the process behind the Retinal Imaging Machine Vision System (RIMVS)--the color-seeing machine she co-developed with other researchers. "Dome" (2004) shows a picture of the Massachusetts State House in Boston.

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Across, a dictionary entry

Goldring, who is also a poet, said she greatly missed the pleasure of visual language once she lost her sight. She responded by developing an English-language dictionary, "Visual Language for the Blind," that incorporates symbols and pictures to convey meaning. So far, the dictionary contains nouns, verbs and words linked to spatial concepts, such as the word "across", as illustrated here.

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'door on Sabrina's retina'

"Door on Sabrina's Retina" (1998). Here, Elizabeth Goldring incorporates her visual word for "door" in a retina print, a nod to the door the RIMVS has opened for her visually. Without the machine, Goldring said, her everyday visual world consists of light and shadow perception.

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'book,' from 'visual language ...'

"Book," from Elizabeth Goldring's "Visual Language for the Blind."

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'murano virgin ...'

"Murano Virgin on Goldring's Retina" (2002).

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'fear,' from 'visual language ...'

"Fear," from Elizabeth Goldring's "Visual Language for the Blind."

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