3D Models of Ancient Artefacts on Show in Arizona’s Virtual Vault

3D Model of Native American bowl decorated with flowers created with 3DSOM Pro. In an effort to share their extensive collection of pottery from the American southwest with both museum and internet visitors, the Arizona State Museum is collaborating with the Center for Desert Archaeology on the Virtual Vault Project. Models of each vessel are being created using 3DSOM Pro, a tool for automatically generating 3D models from photos of an object. The software is produced by Creative Dimension Software Ltd.

“The Vault will go far beyond static electronic exhibit modules that depict a vessel and list its type and ware designation, description, dating, and function – instead, it is being developed as a fully interactive, layered information resource.” explains Doug Gann, Center Preservation Archaeologist and Digital Media Specialist, ” Researchers will be able to view a vessel from all angles and make accurate measurements by manipulating the model onscreen. Viewers will be able to hear curators, archaeologists, and artists share information about the pottery, and in some cases, they will be able to enter a virtual reconstruction of the landscape, site, and room where a pot was found.”

The 3DSOM Pro software generates a 3D model in four steps. Using a conventional digital camera, photos of an object placed on a printed mat are taken from a number of viewpoints in front of a plain backdrop. The software then automatically masks the image (separates the image from the background). The 3DSOM Pro surface generation wizard then automatically generates a high quality wire-mesh model of the object. A high quality texture map is then generated using the color information extracted from the collection of photographs.

The model is then exported and combined with Java-based software to enable a visitor to rotate, move and zoom in or out to examine an object from multiple angles.

Explore an example created by the Center for Desert Archeaology:

This software was also used by the Swedish museum, Murberget to power their online gallery.

“3DSOM was used in our virtual museum, where a new item is presented in 3D each month, explains Lars Goran Spang, head of research, “The modeling of artefacts can in some cases be done in half an hour, which is important if modeling is to be a regular routine. Another key feature of 3DSOM Pro is that the software exports 3d content for the web that doesn’t require any “annoying plug-in (beside java).

The museum’s online gallery offers visitors the opportunity to “handle” everything from ancient flasks to the skulls of extinct animals.