Fittles are a fascinating new learning toy that could revolutionise how visually impaired children interact with and learn about the world around them. The brainchild of designer Tania Jan and Ophthalmologist Anthony Vipin Das, they are 3D printed blocks, marked with braille letters that fit together to simultaneously spell a word and create the shape of that object.
For example, one Fittle (which stands for Fit the Puzzle, by the way) is made up of three blocks, one marked with a C, one marked with an A and one marked with a T. The child feels the blocks to work out which pieces fit together. When connected correctly, the blocks will both spell out and form the shape of a cat. So, the child tests their problem solving skills, learns how to spell words and learns the shape of the object.
The key to Fittles is both its simplicity and its accessibility. The process and methodology is easy enough for parents to work on with their children, while all the designs will be released open source, meaning anybody with a 3D printer can download and fire their Fittles off for no more than the cost of printing.
When choosing the basis for each Fittle design, Jan and Vipin Das deliberately selected items that would be phonetically easy for children to learn but were too large or difficult for them to handle in real life, for example “train” or “fish”.
The next move for Jan and Vipin Das is to create a graded curriculum for parents and teachers to work though with their children and to put together a full Fittles alphabet. They also want to use the flexibility of CAD modelling and 3D print techniques to take the concept one step further by printing each word’s blocks in a material that suits the object. For example, the blocks for “cat” could be created with a soft fuzzy texture, while “fish” could be printed in slippery rubber.