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Inside the Virtual Showcase the physical skull of the
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Inside the Virtual Showcase, the physical skull of the predatory dinosaur Deinonychus is

May 4, 2010
Inside the Virtual Showcase, the physical skull of the predatory dinosaur Deinonychus is scanned to create a digital framework on which the computer will map the placement of muscle and skin.

This is one of several steps in the "augmented reality" (AR) process, where researchers use stereoscopic, 3-D overlays, in combination with synchronized audio and light effects, to "paint" a fossil with digital soft tissue and muscle. The result is a dynamic model that reveals how the dinosaur may have looked and how it may have attacked its prey.

This research was funded by NSF grant DBI 99-74424 (awarded to Stephen M. Gatesy) and IBN 96-01174 (awarded to Lawrence M. Witmer). For further information about this research including a short film about the augmented reality process used with the Deinonychus skull in this series of images, see the NSF News Tip story "Augmented Reality Brings Dinosaurs into the 21st Century," dated October 22, 2002. [Image 3 in a series of 6 images; see also, Virtual Showcase and Augmented Reality Steps 1 through 5.]

More about this Image The Virtual Showcase is a half-mirrored, conical chamber fitted with numerous projectors and lighting controls into which fossils are placed. Up to two users stand outside of the showcase and wear special glasses while the researchers control the lighting and projected graphics, creating a 3-D illusion of flesh and muscle enveloping original bone. The showcase will enable paleontologists to communicate their research results to a novice audience in an exciting and effective way.

The paleontology applications of AR were developed by NSF-supported researchers Stephen Gatesy of Brown University and Lawrence Witmer of Ohio University, in collaboration with Oliver Bimber of Bauhaus University in Germany, and colleagues at the Mitsubishi Electronic Research Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts and the Fraunhofer Center for Research in Computer Graphics in Providence, Rhode Island.

Using a predatory dinosaur called Deinonychus as a test subject, the researchers used AR to determine where powerful jaw muscles may have attached to the animal's skull and hypothesized where muscle, skin and other parts would fit, based upon observations of closely related modern animals. This information, along with a 3-D scan of the fossil, were stored in a standard desktop computer.

In addition to research, AR technology may also have future applications in museum exhibits, augmenting fossils for a variety of educational purposes and enhancing details on display specimens. (Year of image: 2002)