3D astrophysics for the blind

Visually impaired students literally getting a feel for the universe by inspecting 3D printing nebulae.

Visually impaired students are literally getting a feel for the universe by inspecting 3D printed nebulae with their hands.

For most of us anything 3D in research is so much more difficult to handle than 2D that we often have difficulties to visualize 3D information. For blind people though, it´s the 2D surface, such as a computer screen, that they literally can´t handle. For them, 3D is so much easier! While many of us can hardly take our eyes from our smartphones, the visually impaired can not experience the images or texts on a 2D screen. For them 3D is key, beginning with braille, their writing. Today´s topic is the crowd-funding campaign “3D Printing the Universe: Astronomy for the Visually Impaired”. Can 3D printing make a difference? One of the project´s team members, Wanda Díaz, should know, she is a blind astrophysist. Continue reading


3D Astrophysics Newsletter

4.5 Today´s entry:

3D data visualization in astrophysics is going new ways.

3D data visualization in astrophysics is going new ways.

Advanced Data Visualization in Astrophysics: the X3D Pathway

F.P.A. Vogt, C.I. Owen, L. Verdes-Montenegro, S. Borthakur

Abstract: Most modern astrophysical datasets are multi-dimensional; a characteristic that can nowadays generally be conserved and exploited scientifically during the data reduction/simulation and analysis cascades. Yet, the same multi-dimensional datasets are systematically cropped, sliced and/or projected to printable two-dimensional (2-D) diagrams at the publication stage. In this article, we introduce the concept of the “X3D pathway” as a mean of simplifying and easing the access to data visualization and publication via three-dimensional (3-D) diagrams. The X3D pathway exploits the facts that 1) the X3D 3-D file format lies at the center of a product tree that includes interactive HTML documents, 3-D printing, and high-end animations, and 2) all high-impact-factor & peer-reviewed journals in Astrophysics are now published (some exclusively) online. We argue that the X3D standard is an ideal vector for sharing multi-dimensional datasets, as it provides direct access to a range of different data visualization techniques, is fully-open source, and is a well defined ISO standard. Unlike other earlier propositions to publish multi-dimensional datasets via 3-D diagrams, the X3D pathway is not tied to specific software (prone to rapid and unexpected evolution), but instead compatible with a range of open-source software already in use by our community. The interactive HTML branch of the X3D pathway is also actively supported by leading peer-reviewed journals in the field of Astrophysics. Finally, this article provides interested readers with a detailed set of practical astrophysical examples designed to act as a stepping stone towards the implementation of the X3D pathway for any other dataset.

Journal: The Astrophysical Journal
Comments: Accepted for publication, 11 pages, 6 figures, associated Github repository: http://fpavogt.github.io/x3d-pathway/
URL of preprint: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1510.02796v1.pdf
Submitted by: Frédéric P.A. Vogt