Friday, March 5, 2010

3D Scanning

Anyone who’s ever seen a Bond movie knows that lasers are awesome, but it turns out that lasers can be used for more than cutting secret agents in half and blowing up the moon. In fact, one thing you can do with lasers is 3D scanning. 3D scanning uses a digital camera and yes, lasers, to create a precise digital representation of a three dimensional object, and is becoming increasingly common in museums and other cultural industries.

Other than a great opportunity to play with lasers, you might wonder why would anyone want to do 3D scanning. Well, there are a few applications which immediately come to mind. A 3D scan of an object creates an exact replica in a 3D environment, which can be turned into physical objects using various types of machines. A mould can then be created using this new object without the same concerns that would apply to the actual artefact, such as fragility. With a mould created, you could make as many reproductions as you want in a variety of media, which could be used in interpretation or sold in a gift shop.

Another application that pertains to interpretation is that, with a 3D scan, you can use a digital environment to display the artefact, and visitors can manipulate it by turning it over, spinning it around, and even making it larger. This allows visitors to engage with the artefact directly and provides a greater learning opportunity. You could even use 3D representations to teach visitors about the process through which certain artifacts have been created. 3D representations of scans also allow for greater access to collections, as geographical boundaries are no longer an issue.

So why am I telling you all this? Well, I am doing some 3D scanning of my own, and while it is a bit of a learning curve, I expect to have at least a couple of the UWO’s medial artifacts scanned and compiled by next week. If you want to learn more about this little project, I invite you to check out my exhibit design website.

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