Museums are replete with exquisite, lifelike busts of U.S. presidents and heads of state. Many were made when their subjects, such as George Washington and Ben Franklin, were still alive.
Yet, for all their verisimilitude, they’re still artists’ interpretations of what these historical figures looked like. President Barack Obama’s bust, by contrast, is a kind of facsimile never seen before in a presidential representation.
That’s because the latest presidential statue in Smithsonian’s Castle Commons gallery is the result of a 3D scan, the first of its kind of a U.S. president.
We first learned of this technological feat last June — and now we can see exactly how Smithsonian’s Digitization Program team did it.
On Tuesday, The White House and Smithsonian released a behind-the-scenes video that revealed the process necessary to accurately and comprehensively capture Obama’s 3D data.
The team used a mobile light stage which included an array of 50 custom-build LEDs, eight high resolution digital sports cameras and six additional wide-angle digital cameras. They used that setup to capture every contour of his face. They then used a handheld 3D scanner to capture more data.
All that information was combined in a computer using Autodesk software to build a full-scale 3D-model of the president’s head. Finally, they printed both a life mask and the bust using a 3D Laser Sintering printer from 3D Systems.
The best part of the video, though, may be when Obama meets his eerily life-like bust for the first time. It’s hard to tell if he’s surprised, or just happy to finally see a friendly face.
The Smithsonian is not releasing Obama’s 3D data for the rest of us to print the President’s head at home on our own 3D printers. At least, not yet. A Smithsonian spokesperson told Mash that their digitization team is hopeful that someday Obama’s 3D visage will join the rest of the 3D models on this site.
Obama’s life mask and 3D-printed bust will be on display at the Smithsonian through December 31.
Tags: 3D PRINTING, Barack Obama, DEV - DESIGN, DEV & DESIGN, SMITHSONIAN, Tech