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Advanced Visualization Lab shares 3D digital objects

For the past 2½ decades, UITS’ Advanced Visualization Lab has been a pioneer of academic visualization technologies, promoting institutional development of research, teaching and outreach visualization investments and deployment.

As its 25th anniversary approaches in fall 2022, the Advanced Visualization Lab continues one of its core missions: to digitize objects found throughout the IU community and then share these interactive “digital twins” with a worldwide audience. In many cases, the object has historical, aesthetic or educational value; it tells a unique story, furthers research or serves as a key part of a collection.

Whether it’s important artworks or scientific inventions, the lab has digitized and published hundreds of professional-quality items in the past few years alone to Sketchfab.com, a leading online repository of 3D models. Access to these model collections became especially valuable when the pandemic limited on-site teaching opportunities and remote learning became the norm.

Photogrammetry is the primary digitization method, a workflow that uses hundreds of photographs to build object geometry and photoreal textures. Models in the IU Forensics Collection include spent bullets, casings and shoe tread patterns, all used in teaching students how to solve crimes.

Detailed ancient Roman busts, dimensionalized paintings and other artworks in the Eskenazi and Herron collections can be accessed at any time, from anywhere, on any device. Interactive annotated 3D anatomy of all kinds of creatures, created from medical CT scans, can be studied in intricate detail. Items from The Marching Hundred, IU Health and the Sage Collection of Glenn Close costumes can be examined, as well as collections of fossils and prehistoric relics.

Scott Birch is manager of the Advanced Visualization Lab.