Jul 7, 2017

MIT Researchers Use Microsoft Kinect to 3D Scan Gigantic T-Rex Skull

The MIT Camera Culture group uses just $150 worth of scanning equipment to capture a high-resolution 3D scan of a Tyrannosaurus rex skull. 

At archaeological sites and museums across world, 3D technology has become commonplace in preserving ancient history and artifacts. Although both 3D scanning and printing technology have come a long way over the years, there are still various limitations.

For instance, the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago recently attempted to scan a five-foot long T-rex skull. A team of forensic dentists were attempting to analyze and explain strange holes in the jawbone of the skull. However, they soon realized that high-resolution dental scanners weren’t capable of capturing such a large artifact.

Microsoft Kinect Provides High Resolution Scans

And so, the museum turned to researchers from the MIT Camera Culture group. In order to scan this gigantic T-rex skull, the team used a Microsoft Kinect and a free software called MeshLab. All in all, the full equipment setup cost $150, enabling high resolution scanning at an unbelievably affordable price.

For those who don’t know, Microsoft Kinect is a depth-sensing camera used with the Xbox gaming console. This device includes a built-in software that produces a “point cloud,” which is essentially a 3D map of points created through bursts of infrared light. The MeshLab software is used to analyze the point cloud and create the shape of the captured surface.

This type of project would usually employ a commercial 3D scanner, which costs thousands of dollars but also offers high resolution of 50 to 100 micrometers. The Microsoft Kinect system offers only a 500 micrometer resolution, but costs only $100. Although higher quality scanning may be required in some instances, this cheaper system was able to shed insight into these strange holes.

Exploring the Mystery Around A Gigantic T. Rex Skull

The Field Museum’s skeleton is known as Sue, the largest and most complete T-rex skull ever discovered. But there are holes in the jaw area that have puzzled researchers for years. Although the holes were originally assumed to be teeth marks from another tyrannosaur, a group of paleontologists from the University of Wisconsin suggested that they were caused from eating infected prey.

Thanks to the affordable scanning system provided by the MIT researchers, both of these theories are now in doubt. The scan shows that holes weren’t caused by a single bite from another T-rex, while the formation makes a mouth infection unlikely.

These 3D scans will also be available  remotely, allowing researchers to analyze the holes without examining the actual skull. Additionally, if the researchers wish to examine a specific feature of the skull, they could easily 3D print a replica. In fact, the team used the scan to print a few models that are one-eighth the actual size.

The project is led by research scientist Anshuman Das, MIT professor and the director of the Camera Culture group Ramesh Raskar, as well as forensic dentists Denise Murmann and Kenneth Cohrn.

Source: Tech Xplore

License: The text of "MIT Researchers Use Microsoft Kinect to 3D Scan Gigantic T-Rex Skull" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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