How Will Future Generations View President Obama? In 3D, of Course.

Every president hopes to be viewed as a multifaceted, well-rounded, three-dimensional individual. If that’s the case, then President Obama is in terrific shape.

Earlier this year, President Obama became the first president to have a bust created using 3D scanning and printing technology.

Team members at the Digitization Program Office of the Smithsonian Institution started by using high-resolution 3D scanners to capture facial details, then photographs and structured light for hair and clothing details.

Autodesk processed data from these distinct reality capture input methods and produced a single, high-resolution 3D model that could be fed into a 3D printer, or viewed in a browser through the Smithsonian’s x 3D Explorer.  All together there were multiple scans and more than 50 photographs taken to bring the 3D model of President Obama to life.

“Autodesk is proud to support the work of the Smithsonian Institution and their efforts to digitize their collections in 3D,” said Brian Mathews, vice president and CTO of the Reality Solutions group at Autodesk.  “Working with the Smithsonian to create 3D models of President Obama was a historic moment and we were honored to be a part of it.”

Autodesk served as expert advisor and contributed reality computing technology including Project Memento, a solution for turning scans into high quality 3D models.  A digital artist used Autodesk’s Maya and Mudbox tools to frame the subject on a historically relevant plinth, to fix errors introduced in the scanning process, and to render high resolution still images and animations.  The resulting high resolution digital models facilitate further 3D printing, viewing, and educational exploration.

The 3D printed bust will find a home at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., which owns multiple images of each president.  This marks the first time that new technology was used to create a portrait of a sitting president for the National Portrait Gallery. 

To have your own face-to-face encounter with the President, take a closer look at the bust and the life mask, and learn more about the project here.