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A New World of Opportunity

This Op-Ed was originally published on Syracuse.com, read it here.

The contentious debate between keeping controversial statues or removing them has reached a boiling point. In Syracuse, NY our discussion centers around a landmark of downtown, the Columbus Monument. Where a towering 11-foot bronze statue of Christopher Columbus stands on top of a large pedestal. On both sides of the debate there are passionate opinions on whether to keep or remove the statue. My opinion is one of opportunity. This is a chance to move forward instead of looking back. What if the way we interact with history is about to radically change?

In 2013, I asked the question: What if you could 3D scan something larger than life with a drone? Shortly after, a friend and I spent a sunny afternoon flying a drone around the Columbus Monument. The experiment was a great success and the result was a high resolution 3D model of Columbus. Now this experiment feels more relevant than ever.

3D scanning provides a detailed digital copy of a physical object. These digital copies will last long after their physical counterparts disappear. For curators, there isn’t a better medium for preservation. 3D scans are perfect for recreating and restoring artifacts with astounding accuracy. They preserve these precious objects without any fear of environmental degradation. As digital assets, they can be easily shared online and made accessible to everyone. But more opportunities arise when we transport these 3D scans to other technologies.

Send the 3D scan of Columbus to a desktop 3D printer and a few hours later you will have a miniature plastic replica ready for display. 3D printing is advancing at a rapid rate. Everyday there are new inventions and new possibilities for 3D printers. With large scale 3D printers, like those that are printing houses, you can make a 1:1 scale replica of the original. Or pick up a food 3D printer and you can print a Columbus Statue in pie crust for dessert on Columbus Day. Advancements in ceramic, glass, and even aluminum 3D printing are opening the door to near infinite possibilities.

How will the way we understand our history change if we interact with it in such a deeply personal and immersive way?.. Will we develop a greater appreciation for nuances and differences in culture and identity?

Send the 3D scan to another technology, like virtual reality, and the possibilities multiply exponentially. Virtual reality uses headset technology to create an immersive simulated environment. Popular with gamers, virtual reality is now entering new disciplines. Imagine putting on your virtual reality headset. You are suddenly standing near the Columbus Monument in Downtown Syracuse. The sun is shining, the leaves are starting to turn, and you can hear the fountain bubbling. Gently, your feet appear to leave the ground. You are floating up along the monument until you are eye to eye with Columbus. Like magic, the statue comes to life. He reaches into his pocket, pulls out his personal journal, and starts to read about his voyages.

How will the way we understand our history change if we interact with it in such a deeply personal and immersive way? Will we be more open to the context that surrounds historic figures and events? Will we develop a greater appreciation for nuances and differences in culture and identity?

Studying history is critical to our personal and communal evolution. Knowing where we came from opens the door to a better tomorrow. This collective tribal knowledge teaches us to advance society instead of repeating the mistakes of our past. This is the opportunity in 3D scanning. It encapsulates our history in a format that is easily accessible and shareable. It is an opportunity to invent a better society, with richer experiences and more colorful debate. Whether Columbus is a hero or heel in your eyes, digitally preserving our history is an opportunity to evolve our discourse with fresh perspectives and new ideas.

This post was written by Isaac Budmen, lifelong inventor and co-founder of Budmen Industries

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