Feeling Fireworks

Evelyn Streit, Columnist

The New Year is just around the corner and with this celebration comes many elaborate firework displays. Unfortunately, for some visually impaired people out there hoping to celebrate with friends and family, it is very hard to understand and personally witness this experience. As it turns out, Disney researchers are working on this problem and have come up with a genius solution: fireworks that you can feel.

According to Disney Research, the feeling fireworks project was designed to make fireworks more accessible to the blind community. Users place their hands on a flexible 2.9-by-2.9 foot latex screen, and then jets of water are aimed at certain spots on the back of the screen. This creates the impression of a firework. According to Popular Science, an Arduino computer controls the placement of these water jets. Next, according to Aol, the display consists of five main nozzles that create different firework effects. There are three nozzles for creating explosions, one nozzle for mimicking crackle effects, and another nozzle for producing a blooming flower effect.

In addition, the fireworks are available to everyone; this means the blind, visually impaired, and sighted. As stated in Popular Science, “a projector at the front of the screen can also create a corresponding image.” So, as others feel the fireworks, those who can see may watch them. It is also important to note that this project is still in a trial phase. According to New Scientist, the machine has only been tested on sighted users, but researchers hope to test it on the blind community soon. They also plan on integrating this tactile firework show with some public displays in the future.

Feeling Fireworks is a tangible presentation that helps people who are visually impaired or blind experience fireworks. It is a low-cost technology, and will only get better with time.