See Jeffersons library
New Orleans visitors can see virtual room
by Andrew Shurtleff
professor David Luebke sits in front of a projected image
of Monticellos virtual library, the project he and his
students recently completed. Luebke hopes to work with Monticello
again to scan other rooms and buildings on the historic site.
He also sees potential use of his technology in medicine and
emergency rescue work.
By Charlotte Crystal
to the New Orleans Museum of Art now can peer through the windows
of a reproduction of Monticellos west façade
the side shown on the nickel and see a 3-D image of Thomas
Jeffersons library, thanks to the efforts of a team of computer
scientists in Virginia and North Carolina.
wont be the first time that museums have used virtual reality
techniques to transport their visitors into different times and
places, said David Luebke, assistant professor of computer
science at the University of Virginia. But it is the first
time the technique has been combined with laser-scanning technology
to show what an actual room looks like, rather than to display
a computer-generated drawing, he said.
to the New Orleans exhibition [can] see an authentic, three-dimensional
image of Jeffersons library that is accurate down to the
square centimeter, Luebke said.
Monticello exhibit is part of the museums five-month exhibition
of Jeffersons America & Napoleons France,
which commemorates the bicentennial of the Louisiana Purchase,
and opened to the public on April 12.
began the project after learning about a prototype laser scanner
built by Lars Nyland at the University of North Carolina. Together,
Luebke and Nyland sought a site of public and historic interest
for a detailed scan. They conducted a pilot scan of Monticello
in the summer of 2000, and the New Orleans museum contacted Luebke
shortly thereafter regarding plans for using the scanned image
in this years exhibition.
start-up company is refining the scanner a sort of giant,
digital camera that records a scene in minute detail by scanning
every inch of a room with a laser and reducing the television-sized
prototype to a smaller, more lightweight, portable scanner. The
current model the DeltaSphere 3000 is a 12-inch-by-12-inch-by-4-inch
box weighing about 30 pounds. For their part, Luebke and his students
have focused on improving the speed and quality of the visual
display of the scanner.
several months, Luebke, his students and his U.N.C. colleagues
trucked the equipment up the mountain to scan Jeffersons
library. The room needed to be free of visitors, so Luebke and
his team worked around visiting hours, using the scanner at night
and early in the morning.
plans to provide Monticello with the virtual images for its Web
site. He also hopes to collaborate with Monticello to scan other
rooms and other buildings on the historic site for use in research,
education or publication on the Web.
project fits in with Luebkes research interest in creating
rapid, understandable visual displays of huge data sets. With
each scan of Monticello made up of 10 million data points, the
challenge is to create software that can organize and display
the information fast enough to create a meaningful picture for
an interactive display. The solution involves inventing techniques
to enable the computer to identify the most important 10th of
the information and ignore the rest.
technologys applications in the fields of architecture and
archaeology particularly interest
He sees potential applications in medicine and emergency rescue
work, among other fields, too.
you develop a new technology like this, some applications are
clear from the outset and others develop over time, Luebke
the use of visual displays of information expands, I wont
know how exactly my research will be useful. I just know that
it will be.