DC goes 3D
The 3D community in DC, while small, is rather mighty for several reasons. First, there are a lot of sources of content. There’s the museums, monuments, and well respected institutions (like the National Institutes of Health and NASA) that have a supply of objects to be 3D scanned or modeled. They range from historical artifacts, priceless works of art, to medical scans and protein models. Second, the community here is well aware that legally and ethically the world of 3D is new territory. I can see how designers and engineers may want to shy away from these types of conversations, but being surrounded with politics, the DC crowd tends to speak more candidly about the topic. The final reason is perhaps the compilation of the first two. The DC groups have a lot of spotlight on them because of their reputation and because they will set the precedent for further work in this area. I’ve loved getting to know so many people in this community and their work in the field over the summer. They were major sources of feedback and inspiration for my own projects.
Something I ran into often this summer were the legal implications of my work. Though I was in the early stages of prototyping when it came to 3D scanning and altering the scans, scaling these ideas would involve many murky legal waters. For example, if I were to 3D scan a statue in DC for the purposes of a historical lesson, there would be a few issues to think about. First, technically the Park Service is in charge of the statue so what is the appropriate way to give credit to them as well as the artist? Then, if I wanted to put the 3D scan online through something like thingiverse.com – who owns this? The fine print is not always very clear. If I forgo thingiverse and post it myself on a website for the museum, then someone downloads it and puts it on thingiverse.com, then who owns it now? Updates in copyright policy will need to take into consideration these types of new technology.
One of the best experiences from this summer was attending a presentation by Michael Weinberg who is an advocate in the field of emerging technology. He compared the current world of 3D technology to online music sharing. After realizing that internet sharing was inevitable, the music industry created platforms like itunes where you could pay to download legally, turning a nuisance into profit. 3D scanning and printing technology were an inherently open source movement, but it has turned into something with profit potential that will likely follow a similar path. I was particularly intrigued by his advice of assuming everything you make will be 3D scanned. As a designer, I can appreciate the implicit advice to plan ahead for this, rather than retroactively trying to figure out where the laws can give me grounds for litigation.
On that note, I’d like to challenge artists and designers to use this technology in their favor. I’m imagining sculptures that could take advantage of current 3D scanning limitations. The piece could have strategically placed reflective texture (which is where 3D scans usually falter) so that when you 3D scan it with your phone you get a completely new (and designed) experience from the virtual model. Digital media friends – get to it!