I've always wanted a "Star Trek"-style replicator. I'd use it to prepare my Earl Grey tea as well as a top hat for every day of the week.
Kids at a school for the blind and visually impaired in Japan, though, already have a replicator of sorts. It's a 3D printer that creates various objects in response to voice commands.
Sponsored by Yahoo Japan, the Hands on Search project is aimed at making Internet search results tactile instead of just visual and auditory.
The Special Needs Education School for the Visually Impaired is affiliated with the University of Tsukuba outside Tokyo.
It's got a custom-made 3D printer set in an unusual casing that looks like a big puffy cloud. Two buttons and voice commands operate the mechanism.
Kids ask the machine for things like the, a giraffe, or a car. A computer processes the request through voice recognition, searches for the right 3D data, and prints out the object.
Once extraneous plastic parts are clipped off, kids can feel what they asked for. If the right data set can't be located, Yahoo Japan puts up a notice asking for help.
Check out the printer in the vid below. Shouldn't every classroom have one of these?
(Via Design Taxi)