My friend and Autodesk Colleague Tatjana Dzambazova, Technology Whisperer & Senior Product Manager IPG - Reality Capture sent me a great article she had written. It is great to see the www.africafossils.org evolved with more functionality and more comprehensive information. –Shaan
For six decades and three generations, the Leakey family has dedicated themselves to uncovering, understanding and promoting the story of our origins. They have been systematically discovering evidence of our ancestry in East Africa. The Leakey team have collected thousands of fossils of human ancestors and other animals, as well as stone tools and other artifacts that are stored permanently in the National Museums of Kenya and at the Turkana Basin Institute (www.turkanabasin.org).
Aware of the general inaccessibility of these national treasures in their current locations, Dr. Louise Leakey, a third generation of the ‘fossil hunter’ family, took it upon herself to find a way to make them globally accessible for educators, kids, and science enthusiasts. Inspired by the possibilities presented by new capture and digitization technologies, about two years ago Dr. Louise Leakey began a fruitful collaboration with Autodesk (www.autodesk.com). Together, the team captured 3D digital models of the most significant fossils, and built a beautiful, interactive web site to host them.
The dedicated web site www.africafossils.org hosts the collection of fossil models in a virtual laboratory, and allows for an interactive 3D viewing experience of the individual fossils (currently leveraging www.sketchfab.com).
The virtual lab allows the user to explore and pick up the displayed artifacts interactively
Additionally, one can search for specific specimens by categories such as species or age and compare them
Search by category, specimen or age
The 3D fossil can be interactively manipulated in browser, allowing for ‘digital touch’
Interactive comparison of modern human skull and early hominid skull in 3D
MAKING PHYSICAL REPLICAS OF THE OLD FOSSILS
The visitors can download the 3D digital models of the fossil,s for the purpose of making physical replicas under a creative commons license.
Downloads include 3D digitized models for 3D printing, as well as cardboard patterns (generated with Autodesk’s 123D MAKE http://www.123dapp.com/make) for recreating low cost physical replicas of the fossils using laser cutting or simple printer and scissors.
Digital 3D models and Cardboard patterns can be downloaded for creating physical replicas at home or at school
Cardboard assembly of a skull made from the downloadable cardboard patterns created with 123D Make
The 3D digitized fossils can be downloaded for 3D printing
In addition, the site is linked to social networks and has an inbuilt community forum where users can comment and share their creations and experiences.
The currently displayed 3D models have been digitized using Autodesk software (Autodesk’s ReCap Photo http://recap.autodesk.com and 123D Catch http://www.123dapp.com/catch ) The team is now complementing that capture with laser and structured light scanning.
www.africanfossils.org is under continuous development but it already hosts 3D digitized replicas of over 50 fossils. More fossils will be regularly added, as well as other planned improvements to the site.
Science can be accessible and fun, and thanks to the vision of Dr. Leakey with the support of Autodesk and the National Museums of Kenya, we now have a fantastic new way learning about our origins!