Saturday, November 16, 2013

Smithsonian X3D

The Smithsonian has initiated the X3D viewer, accessible via the web, to display 3D models of specimens from its collection of 137 million objects.  The viewer was developed by Autodesk and its operation will look familiar to anyone who has played with 3D drawing software.  The model may be manipulated and zoomed with the mouse controls, and the viewer also permits custom view settings including light controls.

The source images for the digital models are produced by drawing, laser scanning, photogrammetry and micro-ct scans.  In addition to making the images available through a web brower, there is also a possibility of supplying files in formats permitting the production of solid models with a 3D printer.

The Smithsonian site contains interactive models, and explanatory videos showing the digitization techniques and brief lectures about the potential of the idea for educational outreach.  There is also a conference planned for November which will be streamed live from the web site.
The X3D application is pretty resource intensive.  One of our home computers is an older Dell running XP, and it really cannot even support a small iframe running the the Autodesk viewer.  My Dell Precision 690 has more RAM and a faster CPU which does ok with X3D.  I'm wondering how people with tablets and similar platforms are doing with this technology.

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