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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Blue World Notes: Real Sculptures Imported into Virtual Museum in Blue Mars With Laser Scanning

Above left, IDIA laser scanning a Weinmam sculpture; right, the sculpture after it's been imported into Blue Mars

What you’re looking at above is the process by which IDIA Lab imports a real sculpture into the virtual world of Blue Mars, for its “immersive learning experience”. This particular statue is by Adolf Weinmam from the Panama World’s Fair of 1915, which IDIA has remade in Blue Mars. In the real world, the sculpture is on display in the museum of Ball State University (where IDIA is based), and it’s scanned with a laser to create as exact a recreation as possible in Blue Mars. However, that presents a challenge, because with most laser scanning, reflective dots are glued to the object -- not a good idea, when it comes to historical artifacts.

Instead, as IDIA director John Fillwalk explained to me, his developers covered the sculpture with a deer cloth (normally used to keep Bambi from gnawing on your vegetables) and put the scanning dots on that. The process for each World’s Fair sculpture took about 4 hours; a Japanese Buddha which will also be featured in IDIA’s Blue Mars site took two days. From there, it was a matter of converting the scan from a 500 meg file into a 50K graphics file depicting 40,000 polys. The end result: a virtual object that’s a direct translation of the original.

However, that’s just the start, because the goal is not only to recreate historical artifacts in Blue Mars, but also the historical context in which they first existed. More on that here soon!

Read and see more at the IDIA site and IDIA's Flickr stream (where these photos are taken.

What about Blue Mars should I write about next? Email and let me know: hamlet at bluemarsonline dot com.


  1. There is software that can do it from photographs:

    (which would have application to making avatars that look like the real you)

  2. Also a free program that uses a web cam and a hand held laser:


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