Autodesk launches new tool for digital preservation

December 12, 2013

In the next few years, architecture students researching a building will be able to turn to an open-source 3D model of the building itself, download it and have it 3D printed, instantly…

Featured image: courtesy of

Autodesk and the Smithsonian have paired up to launch x3D Explorer, an educational tool that will allow the Smithsonian to digitally preserve its extensive collection as interactive, 3D models.

But while this may just sound like a fun way to interact with history, the initiative, backed by industry heavyweight Autodesk, could very soon have practical, revolutionary applications for architecture as well.

According to Market Watch, the Smithsonian asked Autodesk to build the x3D Explorer in order to democratise access to their collections and bring them to life for their visitors. When users open the Wright Brothers’ 1903 aircraft, for example, they can now explore the design of its engine or wings, zooming/rotating the model for better viewing.

What’s more, the technology will also facilitate the downloading and 3D printing of these objects as well, putting these once untouchable artifacts in the hands of students and adults across the globe.

The applications to architecture are, of course, clear. While many have already begun to use technology to digitally preserve the world’s greatest (and most vulnerable) sites of architecture (most notably Ben Kacyra), Autodesk’s backing of this technology suggests that it will become far more prevalent in our daily lives – and not just in the realm of preservation.

Consider, in the next few years, architecture students researching the Villa Savoye or Seagram Building will not turn to plans, texts or even Wikipedia, but rather an open-source 3D model of the building itself, with ‘hotspots’ of information that explain its structure, material or innovative layout. Consider that, upon downloading the building, they could have it 3D printed, instantly, and hold it in their hands.


What’s more, as the NY Daily News points out, the Smithsonian is already attempting to implement this 3D technology within the museum itself, with projections of augmented reality that would help to “bring dinosaurs or historical figures to life in an exhibit”. Imagine 3D images of architecture projected into physical space, presenting another way in which students, museum-goers or even clients could interact with and understand architecture.

Increasingly, it seems, the future of architectural modelling is virtual. And now, with Autodesk behind the movement, the future could be closer than we think.

Story via the SmithsonianMarket Watch

Autodesk Launches New Tool for Digital Preservation’ by Vanessa Quirk was first published at ArchDaily on 29 November 2013

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