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Artists Covertly Scan Bust of Nefertiti and Release the Data for Free Online (hyperallergic.com)
336 points by jetskindo on Feb 20, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 84 comments

Excitingly enough, UNESCO and IDA are helping fund cameras for 3D scanning of cultural heritage sites in Syria to preserve them in the event ISIS/ISIL destroys them:


"After the Palmyra temple's destruction in August 2015, the Institute for Digital Archaeology (IDA) announced plans to establish a digital record of historical sites and artifacts threatened by ISIL advance.[56][57][58][59] To accomplish this goal, the IDA, in collaboration with UNESCO, will deploy 5,000 3D cameras to partners in the Middle East.[60] The cameras will be used to capture 3D scans of local ruins and relics.[61][62][63]"

Million Image Database: http://digitalarchaeology.org.uk/projects/

Mapillary is also performing photogrammetry on a massive scale with crowdsourced photos (Mapillary allows for the use of their photo database for contribution to OSM as well: https://www.mapillary.com/osm.html).


The future is very bright for recreating 3D objects as well as map data programatically.

EDIT: Apologies this comment isn't formatted better, was super excited to get all of this information into a comment quickly. It intersects right between my archival and photogrammetry interests.

As optimistic as I am about photogrammetry and other 3D-scanning technology, I'm leery of calling it "preservation" or letting you "recreate" artifacts.

It captures shape and texture, but that's all. It's hollow. You can't take a core sample of a 3D scan, you can't X-Ray a 3D scan, you can't smell it or touch it; you can't tell if there's anything inside and you can't carbon-date it. It can't capture how pliable or brittle the object is or how dense it is. A high-res scan of the Mona Lisa can't actually be used to recreate the Mona Lisa. Short of nanoscale replicators, there's information missing.

Of course, the real one will be blown up, sooooooo. Hanging on to the copy of the copy of the copy worked ok for books. it's infinitely better than nothing.

There's an awful lot of value in a particular book-as-object that you lose in a copy, especially in pre-Gutenburg manuscripts:

- What script was it written in?

- How was it bound?

- What shape and size is it?

- Huge roomy margins or small tiny margins?

- Is it actually a palimpsest with another text underneath?

- Who owned it?

- How old is it?

And so on. If someone just writes down the text and burns the book, you've preserved the text but thrown away an awful lot about the people that produced and used the book.

A 3D scan might preserve 100% of aspect A, but 0% of aspect B, in which case it's exactly as bad as no scan if what you care about is aspect B.

Just so i understand, your point is it's much better to have nothing, than having a poor copy of the original object?

That makes, well, not much sense to me. but ok.

I mean that a lot of circumstances, having a picture/scan/copy only slightly diminishes the loss if the object is destroyed, and the existence of 3D scans etc shouldn't be confused with preservation of the original.

Obviously, take pictures and make 3D scans of everything! It's a great way to make unique objects available (to some extent) across the globe. But they're more aids to study than actual backups. Objects haven't been "saved" by being scanned; they're saved when they're actually preserved. A 3D scan of the Buddhas of Bamiyan would have only kinda sorta have ameliorated their loss.

Ah! gotcha. we were talking past each other. i was worried about the incidental damage from war and destruction by zealots, you're talking more about general preservation.

> A high-res scan of the Mona Lisa can't actually be used to recreate the Mona Lisa. Short of nanoscale replicators, there's information missing.

Baby steps. 100 years ago, I'm sure no one considered 3D scanning and 3D printing might ever exist. The next 100 years are going to be just as fun.

Exponentially more fun!

And? if you are looking at a good reproduction of the Mona Lisa do you feel anything less?

There are tons of items that cannot be displayed to the public in fear of damaging them this can help to create a more accurate replica that can be easily displayed at a fraction of the cost.

Just so you know museums have been displaying replicas for decades (if not longer) as many items were too fragile to display, many "original" items that you might see in a museum are in fact replicas carefully crafted, some museums go as far as commission high end manual reproduction paintings if the original is too fragile to display.

And while reproduction paintings are rare natural history museums are filled with replica's those dinosaur fossils are not the actually fossils found in the ground, those are cast and hand finished to look good for the display and the casts often do not even come from a single fossil as a full fossil is almost a unicorn.

> that cannot be displayed to the public in fear of damaging them

I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre on vacation. It was being displayed on a wall like any other painting but it had a big sign, saying no flash photography. There was a large crowd in front and there was a constant flashing from cameras. I wanted to yell at everyone but it wouldn't have done any good.

Was that the original? I remember seeing Lady with an Ermine in Poland - really thick glass in front, dark room, people reminding you about the flash before going in. And I imagine that's not even remotely as important painting.

> Was that the original?

Yes. It was 30 years ago so they have probably improved the protection since then.

Reproductions are awesome as aids to study and for education, no question. Scan everything and make it available in virtual & physical museums! There are huge gains from that. A faithful reproduction of an ancient Egyptian coffin lid is probably nearly as good, from an educational point of view, as the real thing.

But you're not going to be able to take that reproduction coffin lid, put it in a CAT scan, and find a 3000-year-old fingerprint.


Of course not but there are other good uses for reproduction and that if they are good enough you can gain insight from actually touching and handling them. Humans gain quite a bit of information from touching things, the lack of touch is actually felt in some fields like astronomy that have now started to experiment with 3D printing staler objects based on observational data and mathematical models to gain additional insight into various objects.

"The success of our work and easy identification of previously unrecognized physical features highlight the important role 3D printing and interactive graphics can play in the visualization and understanding of complex 3D time-dependent numerical simulations of astrophysical phenomena."


And while you won't be getting any fingerprints or trace material of a reproduction sarcophagus more people could see it, be inspired and you can actually use them in touch exhibits which open a whole other world for allot of people including the blind.


> NEWPALMYRA is a Digital Archaeology project, collecting data from international partners, analyzing it, creating a reconstruction of Palmyra in virtual space, and sharing the models and data in the public domain. We are using digital tools to preserve the heritage sites being actively deleted by ISIS.

Sorry I forgot to mention this in my comment! Thank you for posting it!

Thank goodness for this. The destruction of culturally significant artifacts of such age and importance is incredibly sad to me. At least photography existed before ISIS got here. 3D models are even better.

Makes you wonder what else has been destroyed throughout history. Crazy, sad stuff.

Some people say one example is Stari Most, an Ottoman built bridge, in Bosnia and Herzegovina that was destroyed in 1993 after standing for 427 years.

"After the destruction of the Stari Most, a spokesman for the Croats admitted that they deliberately destroyed it, claiming that it was of strategic importance.[8] Academics have argued that the bridge held little strategic value and that its shelling was an example of deliberate cultural property destruction. Andras Riedlmayer terms the destruction an act of "killing memory", in which evidence of a shared cultural heritage and peaceful co-existence were deliberately destroyed.[7]"


A replica was reconstructed and reopened in 2004.

In the Star Control II lore, the Ur-Quan (evil invading alien race) have as a condition of surrender the destruction of all structures older than 500 years, to destroy any history of not being subjugated by the Ur-Quan. It's a really interesting and sad thing.

The Ur-Quan masters do it themselves and of course, most of Europe gets blasted and funny enough, also a part of Antarctica.

If I recall correctly, the idea is that the Ur-Quan aren't entirely clear as to what parts of human history are factual or fictional, so they destroy both sites of real historical significance and areas that are prominent in human myth, including the lost city of Atlantis.

Hopefully these are multi-spectral captures with published spectral sensitivities and a published file format.

You can find the torrent here: http://nefertitihack.alloversky.com/

(I haven't the slightest idea how to verify what you mentioned, sorry!)

No, that's just a single STL file without any color information attached. But since this is an unofficial and arguably illegal operation, seems already a lot!

I anticipate all sorts of crazy digital-rights management battles ahead for 3D objects like this - including art - but even more on likenesses / people / etc.

Roughly a year ago I bought a structure scanner (1) for my iPad, scanned in friends, imported to unity and let them walk around themselves in the Oculus DK2.

That was a very cool experience but an unexpected result was how many people asked me to delete the scan afterwords.

The comment was it was too creepy to have your 3d likeness floating around out there, these comments from friends that spend their days posting 2d to FB / instagram.

A bust is about the ideal thing to scan with current consumer tech, since it's completely static, but add in algorithmic stabilization / stitching and 3d scanning a human (or recreating from photographs) with or without their permission is right around the corner.

(1) http://structure.io/

"I anticipate all sorts of crazy digital-rights management battles ahead for 3D objects like this - including art."

A 3D scan of an existing object does not create a new copyrighted work under US law. See Meshwerks vs. Toyota. This follows Bridgeman vs. Corel (2D photos don't create a new copyrighted work), which follows the famous Supreme Court decision Feist vs. Rural Telephone (which allowed loading phone directories into databases.).

It hinges on the "creativity" aspect. Where discretion and creativity are present, the image is copyrightable. An exact replica is not.

The question is also whether you are allowed to publish a digital copy of a copyrighted sculpture

Also, how does Bridgeman square with the reality that photographs are certainly copyrighted (Getty, etc)?

Bridgeman is only about "exact photographic copies", like a 1:1 photograph of a painting. Trying to be as exact as possible doesn't count as creative work and therefore isn't copyrightable, even if it requires time and skill.

A worst-case-scenario discussion with some colleges brought to mind some invasive future applications of this tech. For example, what if you could film somebody in public long enough for a recreation of their nude body to be generated? Doesn't seem far fetched. What if you could scan the likeness of somebody and then import them into some sort of pornographic virtual reality...

It's enough to make you wonder what kind of lockdown there will be on software distribution (as seen with Google Glass). Something like a "rape simulator" might generate the sort of headline outrage to push public support for comprehensive surveillance of usage.

This sort of thing could be handled with an extension of personality rights law.

Kill the twin.

Well it has been out there that many Hollywood stars have had high resolution image maps made of them for future use.

I think the real threat isn't digital rights management, its going to being alerted when 3D objects like this are inserted into live presentations. As in, when computer power is there to overlay someone in real time it should be acknowledged else separating fact and fiction will not be available to anyone short of government agencies. Need someone to pull a trigger, we got a computer to make it whom we want

I think we should have a steep uncanny valley before a computer model can impersonate the presence of a person on a screen, I expect to be old or dead by then.

Think noisy security cameras in low-light conditions. The bar is lower tag one might think.

i think it's a generational thing. if you asked people 10 years before facebook to post pictures of themselves voluntarily all over the web, they would have the same response.

the same will happen for 3d likenesses once it's trivial to post '3d selfies' on '3d instagram'.

People have been posting selfies ever since digital cameras have been available. Before Facebook they were on Livejournal and MySpace, and before that Geocities. There were just fewer because phone cameras were really shitty ten years ago.

Very cool. I have a DK2; how did you use the image/output of the Structure Scanner to create a virtual world to walk around?

EDIT: I see you used Unity. I'm not a game programmer (I use the Oculus for video work); care to expound briefly? This could be huge for my line of work. Thanks for any time you can spend on my question.

I would love to understand how it would be huge for your line of work just out of curiosity - my mind was BLOWN the first time I tried this.

In terms of getting it to work you can with the Structure Sensor, import the mesh in Unity 3d, drop the OVR plugin for the Oculus Rift and you're there.

Seriously it's incredibly simple, each of those steps you could figure out with a cursory Goog search / tutorial.

Awesome thanks. I work in sports science and the ability to potentially animate this stuff would be huge, but simple scans/renders would be helpful as well.

Any idea how you might do it in 3d just out of curiosity? Probably just multiple cameras using a normal kinematics program.

The oculus forums are the best place to start - hugely helpful and collaborative - if you haven't yet though get a dk2 and scanner best $500 or so all in to see the future :)

Wow I didn't know a product like that existed. How well does it work? Could I scan the inside of classic cars with it and recreate in Vr? What about a room?

Check out the structure sensor one of its two major modes is for room scans and its awesome

Regarding structure scanning, I see a few details online...

Would you consider working up a write up, for Show HN, with all the detail you care to share about your structure scanning experience...?

This has given me an idea for a fundraiser for a local non-profit I support ...

This is the future. Copyrights and patents were really only effective when the means of production were out of the reach of the average person.

3D printing, digital audio, and other current technologies are almost certainly going to make copyrights only effective at stopping mass monetezation of copied content - not at stopping the copying and sharing of content for personal use.

3D printers in particular, I believe, will trigger the decimation of the scale model and toy markets as we know them. The only vestiges which are likely to survive will be those requiring a high number of moving parts, motorizations, and more.

I doubt the last claim; even if the materials were cheap enough you're dealing with a lot of assembly. If capitalism has taught us anything it's that people will pay for convenience. Plus packaging and branding are huge in those markets. Shopping for and opening the toy is like half the excitement!

I agree. Toys which require a great deal of assembly effort will probably remain viable in the marketplace - for now.

But now that the 3d-printing door has been opened I do think there are already lots of smart people working on companion technologies to bridge the articulation and assembly gaps.

Except for well branded characters, toys already sell basically at cost of materials, thanks to Chinese manufacturing

Does not make sense to say that most people will not have jobs and we will have minimum income, and then add that all the infinite goods will be limited in supply by law.

The whole point is yes we have no more jobs, and all the infinite goods are free to whoever wants them. The producers of the infinite goods live off either other business models or on structured income, perhaps determined by how much of their infinite goods are consumed by the public.

Cosmo Wenman also does this for museums, with their permission, and releases the data under open licenses

https://cosmowenman.wordpress.com/category/3d-scanning/ http://www.thingiverse.com/CosmoWenman/designs/

This is one of the more interesting things to come out of the overlap of technology and artworks to my mind. If we continue to have arrangements like that of the Elgin Marbles in London some kind of compromise where a good quality facsimile like this can be created for relatively cheap and displayed to the public then at least we get to have a freer access to our shared heritage.

It's a crying shame they had to resort to doing it undercover though. What exactly has the museum really got to lose?

Harvard reopened its art museum last year. Its not creative commons, but pretty much everything is now online and searchable.

While not everthing is high-res (picasso cough..) and the interface is meh (you have to zoom too much, its really a good start.

I think they allow visitors to take pictures too. I think you can't stop it cell phones being cameras now.



Probably portable 3D scanners makes it easier, but facsimile art isn't new at all. The V&A museum in London has a huge set of Victorian-era plaster casts of EVERYTHING: http://www.vam.ac.uk/page/c/cast-courts/

There's a whole industry of manuscript fascimiles: http://www.facsimilefinder.com/

Yes, people have been making facsimiles for a long time. The Spurlock Museum in Urbana, IL has a set of copies of the Elgin Marbles, for instance.

Yes, was about to say the same, the Convention for Promoting Universal Reproductions of Works of Art was in 1867. 3D printing of sculptures is hardly new...

If i had to hazard a guess? Some slightly muddled thinking, mired in the ill-considered application existing digital copyright law concepts.

Huh, OS X's Preview.app can load .stl files. I was able to torrent the bust, double-click it, and view it straight away. That was a surprise.

Nice! Now when will I be able to do the same with .mkv files?!?

They snuck in kinects under their ties. That's great.

I'd almost forgotten about the Kinect. After a lot of buzz about hacker applications of a Kinect at first release things seem to have gone quiet over the last year. Kind of surprised not to see more oculus dk2 / Kinect v2 mashups - maybe they'll be a resurgence in interest when oculus gets a full release...

Was wondering how they did it, clearly a better resolution than photogrammetry. Source?

The video in the article shows them doing it:


There's something really fishy about the quality of the model if the kinect was used to capture the data, it seems more likely that this is a cover-story for a leak of the museum's 3D laser scan data

Here is quick and dirty WebGL view of that Nefertiti model:


This pleases me to no end. Sort of reminds me that an imperfect representation of Bach's Brandenbourg II is floating around on Voyager, encoded on a golden disc.

As a professional violinist for almost 30 years, and an expert in early music, it makes me a little sad that it's that recording that got sent out.

On the other hand, it thrills me that 4.5 or so billions of years from now, long after we are extinct, and when the sun goes dark, Bach will still be out there in the cosmos.

Not a perfect Bach. Not the best representation. Not at all what he would have imagined. But a representation.

Completely off-topic and re: Fermi's paradox.

I think that the voyager mission was a unique thing. It was only possible for a brief window of time in which we had the technology to do it, and the social willingness to do it. It was a short period of time.

Think about the social and political implications a mission like Voyager would have today. If you tried to do that today, people and countries and orgs from all over the world would argue for inclusion. I think there's a Simpsons episode about this.

My point about Fermi is that I'm suggesting that there was only about a 10 year window in which Voyager was both technically possible and socially acceptable. In the time scale of intelligent life, that's a very narrow window.

I sometimes wonder if there isn't a lot of intelligent life out there whose civilizations simply missed that window. In other words, a lot of life that would very much like to say hello, but can't agree on how to do it.

Sorry for the tangent.

I expected this to be a thing 15+ years ago, starting with this at Stanford: http://graphics.stanford.edu/projects/mich/

You can't download their David dataset though. Which is a crying shame since artworks like this should belong to all mankind.

Huh, interesting. I'm pretty sure those weren't available last time I checked.

It does seem a shame to me that such things are often prohibited from being photographed, at least without a flash.

I do recall a few years ago the British Museum in London hosted a few dozen Terracotta Warriors. I snapped a photo only to be told not to. When I asked why, they said it was copyrighted!

Pretty impressive quality of model considering the means of acquisition.

here's a render I made of it: http://www.indigorenderer.com/forum/download/file.php?id=205...

Edit: profile render: http://www.indigorenderer.com/forum/download/file.php?id=205...

Isnt art from antiquity devoid of all copyright anyway? Why arent such scans completely lawful in the first place especially when they belong to the public?

Copyright, yes. But the museum is allowed to hide the object and their scans if they want to. If there is legal action against the scholars, it would be for damages (probably lost revenue) and not for copyright infringement.

Does the Museum actually own the work of art? I think they probably own the physical object but isnt its artistic expression considered as intellectual property and therefore wouldnt it fall in the public domain?

As for the lost revenue claim, then what about the pictures of paintings you find everywhere? Wouldnt they cause lost revenue as well if we follow that logic?

It's not copyrighted, so the intellectual property is in the public domain. But this doesn't mean they are prohibited from hiding the object, or making people contractually agree not to take photos.

In the USA, there are certain fair use rights that let you copy a work without a license. It's a big gray area, usually it's OK if it's for purposes of commentary or education, and not for commercial use. Other jurisdictions are probably more strict.

> “The head of Nefertiti represents all the other millions of stolen and looted artifacts all over the world currently happening, for example, in Syria, Iraq, and in Egypt,” Al-Badri said. “Archaeological artifacts as a cultural memory originate for the most part from the Global South; however, a vast number of important objects can be found in Western museums and private collections. We should face the fact that the colonial structures continue to exist today and still produce their inherent symbolic struggles.”

I am always amazed by people's ability to choose the worst possible examples or context for whatever point they're trying to make. Syria and Iraq are currently undergoing unprecedented destruction of archeological heritage, perpetrated entirely by people from the "Global South", fighting for (their part of) the "Global South"'s resurgence against the evil West. I always wanted to visit Syria; now I can only wish that more of its monuments and artifacts had been taken abroad, so that they could be saved.

> Al-Badri and Nelles take issue, for instance, with the Neues Museum’s method of displaying the bust, which apparently does not provide viewers with any context of how it arrived at the museum

This saddens me, as the Neues Museum has seen the other side of this coin: After the war, lots of items were looted by the Russians, most notably jewelry from Troy. But I guess this must be common practice for several museums.

Random fact: While the museum doesn't allow you to take pictures (not even from another room), they do have a 3d reconstruction you can touch, destined to blind visitors.

This is awesome. I'm affiliated with a project that documents stone monuments [1](photos only)... Any suggestions for a cheap, portable 3D scanner?

I saw the structure.io scanner mentioned here, anybody have any other suggestions?

[1] ubi-erat-lupa.org

AFAIA such scanners can only capture the surface of a thing, and cannot gain information about overhangs and occluded surfaces.

For some purposes one needs volume information

What options are there for consumer-level volume scanning using ultrasound ?

Redundancy is a good thing.

Woah... Yeah, artifacts like these are critically vulnerable.. Please keep this up.

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