#3D4ever

Last week, whilst George and Tom were attempting to reach #VHNIreland I was having slightly more luck arriving at the Wellcome Collection for the ‘3D4ever: building three dimensional models to last’ conference.

The conference focused around the long-term durability and accessibility of 3D models and scan data for future uses, uses which as we discovered in some of the talks may not be immediately obvious. I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on a few thoughts and favourite take-aways.

Having a good understanding of photogrammetry (primarily by probing Tom for tips and tricks) I opted to skip the workshops and stick with talks for the whole day, it was intense but informative and an eye-opener into a community that I didn’t even know really existed! So… a few highlights:

Stuart Jeffrey from the Glasgow School of Art (GSA) discussed a use-case where an old 3D model of the GSA Mackintosh Building which suffered severe fire damage in 2014 provided evidence that a substantial lean on the West gable wall was historic and had not come about as a result of the fire. Members of the GSA Digital Design Studio produced a second model the day after the fire to compare the lean and save a large portion of the building from demolition an impressive feat and one which illustrated the importance of making good data accessible in the long-term.

Stuart Jeffrey from GSA

Anthony Corns from the Discovery Programme talked about his experiences of archiving and reusing 3D data as well as the steps and software involved in the creation of a model. One slide showed a standard software stack consisting of about 12 programmes which was somewhat surprising, working with Tom to process various models I am slowly but surely becoming aware and familiar with the wide range of tools out there.

Anthony also spoke about using scan data to asses pressure on different sites his example being Skellig Michael which has witnessed a surge in tourist numbers since Luke Skywalker decided to hang there in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This also demonstrated when are where it may be appropriate to sell 3D data such as to film/production crews.

 

Chris Moran who heads the Wellcome Trust legal team gave an insightful talk on Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) an area where people often become a little tangled. I was listening from a design perspective so it was interesting to see examples where cases had been argued and won based on the potentially loose definitions of what constitutes something as an ‘original creation’ or even a database, his example being a newspaper’s website. Star Wars references were also utilised here in the form of the IP rights of a Stormtrooper’s helmet… I sense a pattern developing.

IP Rights with Chris Moran

Vincent Rossi and Jon Blundell of the Smithsonian appeared via Skype to discuss their work on digitisation and also show off their amazing work on the Apollo 11 command module ‘Columbia’ check it out here.

Vincent Rossi and Jon Blundell all the way from America

I had the opportunity to ask a question to our speakers from across the pond which was kinda cool!

Finally perhaps the most insightful moment was the final ‘Round-up chat’. Here following a panel chat the audience were invited to reflect on: what is to be done and how to address the gaps in our knowledge?

A final panel chat

It was clear there was a desire for good collaborative practise and several rousing speeches were made, there was a great deal to get off the chest! A key agreement was that to work with better tools and formats, instead of trying to create new ones, complain about a lack of essential features, and live in fear of formats going extinct, why not establish a line of communication with the developers and those behind the existing platforms. The software stack slide that Anthony showed sprung to mind and it became apparent there was a need for openness and better communication between all parties involved in 3D work not just in the short term and not just for individuals and independent organisations but the community as a whole.

What a day, mind blown!

C

Failure to get to Cork = virtual presentation for #vhnireland

Last Friday, Tom and I had the best intentions in the world of presenting to the attendees of Virtual Heritage Network Ireland in Cork. We were all set to talk about Letting Objects Speak for Themselves, and show folks some working boxes. It was also going to be my first visit to Ireland! But, our journey ended at Stansted, after a remarkable slurry of travel woes I shan’t bore you with. Suffice it to say that everything that could have gone wrong, did.

With our tails between our legs, Tom and I knew we wanted to send something in our place, so we headed back to HQ to see if we could make a video version of what we’d planned to talk about. Fate steps in again – we’d both not brought our office keys! (And Charlie was off at the Wellcome’s 3d4ever meeting!) Gah!

Luckily, the little office next door was open, so we were able to suck the office wifi, and we put together a version of what we would have said on stage to send over. Phew!

Museum in a Box – Letting Objects Speak for Themselves – VHN Ireland from Museum in a Box on Vimeo.

We were very happy to watch people via Twitter telling us they enjoyed it. A soothing balm after a shitty day, and overall, a helpful result!

 

Thanks for the kind words, everyone!

All boxed up at MOO

We recently paid a visit to our friends at MOO HQ which is only a stones throw from our Bloomsbury base to meet up with Toby Hextall and Phil Thomas who are the go-to designers on all things product and packaging. We wanted to get some packaging tips and also start prototyping a few concepts and Toby and Phil were kind enough to help us out.

 The Moo office is a beautiful and inspiring place and so we couldn’t help but take a few snaps before getting down to business.

Moo Entrance

After a catchup and some brainstorming we set to work on a first iteration container to house a brain box and set of MOO’s NFC cards. They have some great kit and we were able to prototype a set of packaging inserts and a card box using their Graphtec FC2250 Flatbed Plotter. The machine cuts and scores each piece of card very fast and accurately and it also works with an inDesign plug-in making the whole experience super smooth. 

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We learnt a lot about product packaging in a short period of time and worked through several iterations of inserts designed to hold a ply brain box and business card box. Whilst refining a design we also tried out various card stocks including thick corrugated sheets and recycled craft card. We discovered that the insert had a tendency to rise up around the plywood brain box so added two flaps that the brain would sit on top of to prevent this rising from happening. The box of cards also caused the insert to flex and so we tried out different tab widths as well as corrugated card to work around that.

Below is a video put together to show the machine we used to cut the inserts and the iterations in a little more detail:

We’re excited to see what else we can produce and how we can develop our packaging prototypes. We hope to spend some more time with Phil, Toby and the rest of the team in the future and we’ll keep you posted as always as things develop. Exciting times!

C.

charlie with phil

 

A Camera on a Pole, Drama Through the Ages

On a blustery Wednesday here in London, Charlie and Tom venture out to try out an idea – to make a 3d scan of a frieze on the old Saville Theatre on Shaftsbury Avenue. Only one problem stood in our way – it’s 20 feet (6 metres) in the air:

We’ve been 3D scanning for a while over here – and teaching other people the not-so-dark art too – and one obstacle that we’ve come across again and again is that we’re just. not. that. tall.

This is normally not a problem in day to day life, but when you’re trying to 3D scan the top of an ancient egyptian sculpture that’s 10ft in the air or indeed a complete a totem pole – being taller than a regular human would be an advantage.

Our solution? A Big Stick.

Among my various work I (Tom) have done a fair amount of sound recording on short films and documentaries and one of my trusty bits of portable recording gear is a boom pole. While normally the thread attachments only fit 3/8 inch microphone grips, by purchasing a thread adaptor and a ball head mount we made ourselves a pretty serviceable camera pole!

We can control the camera (a Canon G7x) with an app on our phones that displays a mirrored viewport of what the camera can see via WiFi. A tap on our handset triggers the shutter on the camera, complete with a handy cartoon “ker-chik” sound from it’s speaker.

Never one’s to miss an opportunity, our first outing with this set up was to make a scan on the side of a building on a busy road in central London.

Pinball Wizard: Games for Learning

Last Thursday, Charlie and Tom went along to an event organised by the London Museums Group and hosted by the Jewish Museum London that was all about games in museums.

The day consisted of a series of talks by game makers from both inside and outside museums, all with lots of interesting takes on what games are and what they (should) do. It was a great chance for us to fill our brains with expert information and got us both thinking about how we might use some of the principles we learned to make Museum in a Box even more engaging and – gasp! – fun 😀

Needless to say, they had a healthy amount of fun and they share some of the ideas as well as their own thoughts in this post…

Some of our fave takeaways:

It’s fun to have fun – you’ll learn stuff along the way.

The day began with a keynote from Martha Henson who distilled what makes a game into three basic constituents:

  • Mechanics
    The rules of your game. How the game is played, what actions the player can make, win or fail states, how rules are enforced
  • Dynamics
    How the rules act in motion. How they respond to player input and interact with other rules. The “run-time” behaviour of a game.
  • Aesthetics
    The player’s experience of the game. Is it fun? Social? Frustrating? Hilarious?

From Martha Henson’s talk Creating Compelling Museum Games

I don’t know about you but I find it really handy – as an inexperienced game designer approaching the subject – to be able to turn to simple principles like these to keep me on track when making something.

Another reason I enjoyed Martha’s keynote is that she used games to explain the principles she was describing – she got the whole room to perform the act of game  design by playing Cat on Yer Head and showed how you can get people to do things they don’t normally do through play:

In the above short video I’m trying out an app called Bounden which was developed by Game Oven Studios for the Dutch National Ballet, an app that gets you to – if not exactly dance – at least move your body in an unusual way.

Check out slides form Martha’s talk here.

Games don’t have to be on a screen (gasp!)

While I am most definitely familiar with screen based gaming (the original GameBoy and SNES being my first memories of such things), it’s good to be reminded of the fun to be had with simpler technology.

Lo-fi Fun

Charlotte Derry spoke about some amazing user research that she and colleagues had undertaken at Manchester Museum around allowing play to take place in your museum.

Instead of the perhaps more familiar ‘stop that’, ‘put that down’, ‘shush!’ school of public engagement, visitor services staff were encouraged to observe where visitors to the museum were making their own fun and to allow this to happen. They also experimented with simple and cheap activities – making animals and objects out of newspaper and sticky tape or using simple prompts to encourage fun and giggles:

Even better than just doing this research, Charlotte and friends produced a handbook to help other museums do the same.

cof

Taking Turns

Fran Jeens from the Jewish Museum showed off the fresh-off-the-press games that had been commissioned to promote discussion within school groups that visited the museum.

Teachers take a particular board and set of cards to a particular exhibit in the museum, sit about on cushions and everybody takes turns picking cards that relate facts, ask children to visually inspect the object in detail, pose questions or suggest activities.

This definitely got us thinking about how we might use cards to prompt activities around museum objects in Museum in a Box…

Barriers to play

Sophie Sampson gave a great appraisal of the barriers to playing games in public via observations gleaned from her work as one half of Matheson Marcault.

Having organised large scale gaming events for New Scientist, Somerset House and Kings College London Sophie has had the opportunity to watch people while they are playing all kinds of games but also to observe what it takes to get reluctant gamesters involved (and we’re talking mostly about adults here as kids generally have less inhibitions).

Sophie boiled it down to The Five Elements of the Decision to Play (I’ve added my summary interpretation in italics,  Sophie explained it much better tho…)

  • The Attractor
    “ooh what’s that? looks like it might be fun…”
  • The Invitation
    “hiya, it’s OK to act a bit differently in this space…”
  • The Threshold
    “…beyond here, you are in the game zone, prepare for funz!”
  • The Call and Response
    “Right, now you’re here, this is what you do…”
  • The End
    is the game over? ah, yes, the game is over… one more time?”

So hopefully I’ve not mangled those ideas to much but the main take away for me was that, even if you have a well designed, it’s worth your while thinking about how you invite people to actually play it.

Taking Inspiration from History

Andrea Cunningham & Sophie Sage from the V&A Museum of Childhood took us through the new exhibition Game Plan: Board Games Rediscovered which recounts the history of the board game and  ‘celebrate[s] the joy, excitement and occasional frustration of playing board games.’.

The exhibition features all kinds of board games that you can sit down and play, while the exhibition itself can be experienced like a board game:

The exhibition also includes some related events like a dress up family tour as well as a wel attended board game night for grow-ups too… turns out that everyone likes having fun 🙂

At the end of the exhibition patrons can take a ‘board game personality test’ and discover out what kind of board game player they are. Andrea and Sophie invited us to take the test too and it turns out that I’m a Goody Two-Shoes type, always playing by the rules and trying to help everyone get along….

My take away from this section was that you can infuse most things with fun and games and make them more interesting and engaging. The fact there are enough board games for an exhibition in a museum suggests that humans have had an appetite for gaming for quite some time, too.

OK, I’ll leave it there.

There were plenty of other speakers that said interesting things, like

But this  post is already long enough. Suffice to say plenty of people believe in the power of play to engage and enthuse and educate in the cultural heritage sector and there are plenty of examples of it in practice.

A couple of thing I was left wondering about at the end were

  • The purpose of games – are they marketing/headline grabbers for museums? are they a learning tool? what needs do they address for a museum visitor?
  • How you measure success of a game – number of downloads/plays? inferred learning through observation? a written test? a laugh and a smile?

These might not even matter that much as fun is often an end in itself and if you’ve had fun, you might just have learned something along the way.

T.

Augmented Reality [AR] Postcards with Augment App

One thing I love about making a 3D scan of an object is that you can do multiple things with the resulting digital data. You can post it online for people to examine in their web browser; you can beam it across the the globe (or into space) to someone with a 3D printer and they can effectively replicate it; you can put it in a video game or VR scene

I wrote a couple of days ago about how the 3D scanning that we conducted for the Cuming Museum – a museum with no building (it burned down) but with enthusiastic staff that help people connect with the surviving collection through events, outreach, the web and social media.

In the video above, you can see the 3D models we made popping up from postcards through the clever tech of an augmented reality (AR) app called Augment.

We first started having fun with this tech at a residency at Somerset House way back in March, 2015 as part of The Small Museum. We used the tool to reveal the true colours and (maybe more significantly) the true scale of a Colossal Foot from the British Musem (of which, it turns out, there are many.)

Read more about those adventures – and the genesis of Museum in a Box – on The Small Museum blog.

The steps you need to go through to work this magic is fairly straightforward – upload your 3D model, indicate it’s size, upload your image, indicate it’s size, associate the two and you’re done. Fire up the Augment app (Android / iOS), point it at your image and – boom! – you’ve got some very cool AR happening in front or your eyes!

You can also have some fun with how the image that triggers (or “trackers” as Augment calls them) the AR relates to the 3D model that pops up. While we simply used a couple of collection images as triggers. In our experiments, an image of the poor giraffe statuette in pieces after the fire to trigger 3D of the lovely complete version after careful conservation. The 3D scan of a poor malnourished tiger’s skull from the long defunct Surrey Zoological gardens is triggered by an illustration showing Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visiting the Surrey Zoological Gardens in 1848 – complete with wholly unsafe jack russel terrier in the cage!

By by playing with the combination of image and associated 3D, you can help tell an artefact’s without any words. Of course if you add words and sounds you’ll be hitting all kinds of learning styles. Plenty to explore here….

Try it yourself, print off the images below at A5 size and scan them with the Augment app!

T.

Making a Box that reflects the content

 

The paradigm that Museum in a Box uses to connect objects to related content is simple:

  1. Take a Thing.
  2. Put that Thing on a Brain.
  3. Receive lovely and interesting Content.

You can think of Things in the above scenario as ‘keys’ that unlock the context to the object you’re looking at. Sometimes the Thing is a 3D print of a scanned artefact, sometimes it’s a picture postcard and sometimes it’s fun to leave things a bit ambiguous – what is the Thing you’re holding? How does it relate to the Content you’re listening to?

This is what we explored a bit with Prototype No.13, which you can watch a demo of in the above video.

For this Box, we used some public domain audio from The Internet Archive as the Content and decided to try out a form factor for the Things that reflected what you would be listening to but still leaves a lot to the imagination…

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So in case you’ve not guessed yet, we used the Planets Suite by Gustav Holst for this Box, hence our spherical Content keys/triggers. We sourced some half-spheres of  birchwood from eBay, as this seemed like the easiest way to get an RFID tag inside a globe shape. Polystyrene may have been cheaper but we like the look and feel of the plain wood. We slapped an RFID sticker on one half and used wood glue to join this to its counterpart.

Making this prototype was also a good exercise in testing the limits of our tech. It turns out that smaller RFID tags have (maybe unsurprisingly) a shorter pickup range when offered up to the RFID reader we’re currently using. In a quick test, the small tag would not trigger the audio when housed in our 32mm diameter balls (so their range is less than 17mm). Fortunately, upgrading to 25mm tags extended the range of our wee planets to about 2 or 3cm. We also found out that tags only register on the reader if offered in a near parallel orientation (as in the GIF above).

We re-purposed a gift box to house our Raspberry Pi, tag reader, battery, audio speaker & cables and made a simple insert  with holes to hold the planets in a nice formation and another to suspend them over the RFID reader. (Extra special thanks to my partner and her mum for helping with this!)

All in all creating this Box only took about half a day and we’re very pleased with the results 🙂

T.

How to visit a Museum which isn’t there…


Read more about The Last Giraffe of Walworth on the Southwark Heritage Blog

We’ve been doing some more 3D scanning, this time for the Cuming Museum – a museum based in South London, UK.

Interested in exploring new ways to engage people with the museum’s collection, Judy Aitkin, Heritage Manager for Southwark, contacted Museum in a Box about the possibilities of producing “something 360” for their re-vamped website.

We were, of course, happy to help and paid a visit to their stores to take some 1600 photos of 10 objects from across the museum’s collection…

A Museum With No Public Premises

The Cuming Museum is an interesting case in Museumland – it’s a museum that (currently) has no physical premises. No galleries, no cloakroom, no café – all of these were the unfortunate victims of a fire in 2013 that severely damaged the lovely red brick Town Hall building on Walworth Road that housed the Cuming family collection and artefacts relating to the history of the Borough of Southwark.

Despite not currently having a physical museum to manage, Judy and her team are doing a great job keeping the Museum’s audience up to date via the Southwark Heritage website, Twitter, Pinterest and blog as well as through regular heritage events.

Visit the Cuming Museum’s Sketchfab profile to explore some pretty amazing objects and even download them  to use for non-commercial projects!

If you work at a museum or heritage institution and are interested in learning how to make 3D scans or need something scanned, please get in touch.

T.

Beyond the brain

Before I get rambling, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Charlie and I’m the latest addition to the Museum in a Box crew. I spent some time with George and Tom as a visiting researcher shortly after their transition to the new Bloomsbury HQ in the spring; but now spring has sprung and summer is done I’m lucky enough to have joined as Junior Designer and officially one of the team. On with the post!

It’s been a while since we’ve written about the various goings on at Museum in a Box so I’d like to take a moment to break down a few developments of late.

Up until now the product has revolved around two parts: the Brain (the box) and the artefacts, either 3D prints or 2D postcards. The interaction too has remained relatively unchanged with an object placed on the box triggering audio which provides context to its origins and history. The audio content that plays has often been a unique script written and narrated by one of the team, however as a great deal of our focus is on the box being used within the classroom, providing information around an object is only half the interaction. Seeing as each box is powered by a Raspberry Pi we’ve begun to explore new ways that we can use that to ramp up the fun that users can have with the box.

A box that listens?

When we consider how the box may be used in the classroom one important factor is how it can act as an intermediary between pupil and teacher. We’ve seen how well school pupils react and get stuck-in with the box and its objects, so finding a way for that to fit in with lesson plans and teaching is important. In response we’ve started work on a new component, a recorder box which will contain a microphone and aims to compliment the box and its objects.

We’ve had the idea of being able to record to the brain in our minds for some time and we’ve been asked again and again if a record feature is on the cards. Seeing as it had come up in discussion so often we thought it was time to crack on with a spot of prototyping!

Mocking up a cardboard record interface

Mocking up a cardboard record interface

We begun by mocking up a few cardboard interfaces with various button configurations, as well as postcards which could control what mode the box was in but ultimately decided that if the recorder box is plugged in, and an object is placed on the brain, it will switch to ‘record mode’ and announce just that. The box will then issue a count down and allow the user to record their own description of the object with the options to replay, delete and save their recording. This new recording will now play every time that object is ‘booped’ unless a newer recording is made.

A render considering what form a record box could take.

A render considering what form a record box could take.

The recorder box will alter the way we think of the content associated with any given object, instead of it being a predetermined description, by plugging in the recorder the user can create their own customised audio. With the object descriptions essentially in flux the recorder will lend itself very well to classroom activities where teachers could set unique tasks to objects that pupils can then record over with their own responses.

We’re now starting to talk to teachers, and understand who the product is serving and how we see the record box working both inside and outside the classroom: whether it’s museum staff creating activities for visitors or parents recording stories for friends and family, we’re super excited to be prototyping this new tool and will keep you updated as things develop. 

Traveling the world via 3D models…

Around-The-World-graph-2

Tom’s done some more writing for our friends over at Sketchfab – this time looking at one of the first 3D scans he produced for the British Museum. It’s part of a series of posts organised by cultural heritage researchers and fellow 3D scanners Abby and Néstor that travels the world one 3D model at a time!

Sharing three dimensional proxies for ancient artifacts online was one of the things that first got us thinking about how we could share the amazing objects museums and other institutions have in their galleries (and vast storage) with people across the world who might not be able to visit a particular museum in real life…