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A 3D Virtual Smithsonian Institution is Online

With most of its 137 million objects kept behind the scenes or in a faraway museum, the Smithsonian Institution is launching a new 3D scanning and printing initiative to make more of its massive collection accessible to schools, researchers and the public worldwide. Beta version of the 3D viewer is now online but without stereoscopic 3D option. As Autodesk is behind the viewer, lets hope for 3D Vision support in v1.0...

The viewer gives access to the usual top, left and front views of scanned objets from the X3D collection, plus a free XYZ pan-tilt-zoom tool and (for some but not all) objects, a tour browser tells you interesting stories in a PowerPoint-like way, with added interaction.

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3D Scanning at the Smithsonian

Here under the one-page user's guide to the Smithsonian viewer.

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Visit the Virtual Smithsonian and try the beta viewer now!

Next : a 3D Lab with on-demand 3D Printing

So far, the Smithsonian is devoting about $350,000 annually to 3D digitization, with companies also donating equipment. But museum officials are working to raise $15 million going forward to move the 3D lab from a suburban warehouse in Maryland to a new innovation center planned for the National Mall. There, the public could see some of the latest 3D technology and even make their own 3D prints of museum objects in a "maker lab." Within minutes, a 3D printer can create a plastic replica of an object by reproducing the digital model layer by layer.

How long for the remaining 137 Million Artifacts?

It's not clear how long it will take to create a large 3D collection. The pace will depend on funding and scaling up techniques the 3D lab has just begun creating, officials said. For other digitization efforts, the Smithsonian has engaged private partners and may even recruit volunteers to help.

Source: Press Release on ABCNews-Associated Press.