Sometimes, breakthroughs come when your back is up against the wall.  A forensic team, a huge project, a tiny budget:  those are the causes of a huge innovation in Chicago.

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Forensic Scientists want to get a close up look at Sue’s Jaw, but their equipment wasn’t big enough to handle the task, so the team was forced to turn to the Camera Culture group, part of MIT’s famed Media Lab.

Sorry, who is Sue?  Sue is the T. Rex that stands in Chicago’s Field Museum.  And her skull is 5 feet long.

They announced their plan in July:  use a video game camera – about the size of a can of tennis balls – and build a 3D map, known as a point cloud, then use some free software to analyze it.

Total cost: $150.

The project utilized a Microsoft Kinect camera and Mesh Lab software: not the best quality, topping out at 500 micrometers.  High-end scanners for a project like this would go as low as 50 micrometers, but cost $30,000.

Camera Culture’s setup was much cheaper, and only took about two minutes to scan the entire Rex skull.  The project is leading many researchers to suggest that museums could easily create virtual models for education or outreach well within any budget, and the possible research implications are far reaching

There’s more stories from 2017.  Check out the Best of 2017 series here

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