See How the Smithsonian Created a 3D Portrait of President Obama

Back in the day, presidents were “immortalized” by having life masks created. A life mask is essentially a sculpture of a person’s head made of plaster.

The Smithsonian Institution is about to change that tradition by digitally constructing a model with a 3D printer:

The trick is that the 3D model is an exact copy of the person, not an artistic representation. This is done by a system called “Mobile Light Stage.” The setup essentially consists of LED flashes especially made for this purpose and several high resolution cameras.

president sitting for light scan

That in combination with handheld scanners equipped with stereoscopic cameras and LED pulsing flashes created the most detailed 3D model of the today’s US president (or any president, for that matter) so far.

The process in the Light Stage takes about a second; the light is fired from different locations in order for different light polarizations to be recorded on camera. In the meantime, several high resolution cameras together with the wider angle cameras record the light changes.

president being scanned for 3D model

That data combined with the scanners creates the exact 3D model of the president. The model is then 3D printed to create the first bust of a head of state created with objective data.

3d portrait of the president

bust of us president 3d model

“The president getting his lightness scan, as cool as it is, it is also about a broader trend that is going on, and that is the third industrial revolution. It is the combination of the digital world and the physical world, that is allowing students and entrepreneurs to go from an idea to a prototype in an blink of an eye.” — Tom Kalil, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Is this the future of portraiture?

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