The Future of the 3D Image Library: CEPIC Week

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i3DLife on iPad

The 3D image experience is becoming more familiar on the big screen and even in the living room. But Chris Bamford and i3DLife are creating a library of 3D imagery and an iPad app that is already proving very popular in areas such Education, Medicine, Art Galleries. But as Bamford tells us, in the age of Tablets, and new kinds of publishing, we have barely scratched the surface on the opportunities for 3D imaging

The 3D future is slowly taking shape, and we asked Chris Bamford of i3DLife to give us the inside story on the evolution of this kind of imagery

What’s your background Chris?

Chris Bamford : I graduated from Leeds in Graphic Design and went on to eventually help grow a busy design studio into a successful international advertising agency. We produced and translated campaigns worldwide for the likes of Symbol, Timberland, Analog Devices, Polartec, Kodak and Motorola. We had some great clients, and some fabulous times!

Since 2000 I have been a partner in a group of companies related to architecture and construction, one of which is a 3D visualisation consultancy, and I’ve worked on some major national and international projects in that time.

When was i3DLife set up and what inspired you at that moment in time?

Chris Bamford: I set up i3DLife with a partner in 2010 with the original aim of creating and presenting 3D scans of medical specimens. We eventually created one of the world’s largest collections of rare medical specimens, and this project is ongoing. Our brief is to present these digital specimens in a beautiful interactive manner, with associated metadata and annotations, and in a way that is of use to medical students and practitioners. Our iPad app has been profoundly well received by the Royal College of Surgeons and many others in the heritage sector. We are currently looking at some very difficult problems in collecting 3D data from seemingly impossible starting points. I can’t say much more than that, but we are facing some very exciting challenges that could be of great benefit in the presentation of very rare and unique objects.

Last year we won a Technology Strategy Board award to produce software that adds value to metadata and associated existing collections of 3D repositories. We collaborated successfully with the Victoria and Albert Museum, and we continue to develop the products we trialled. The user testing that was undertaken at the V&A was very encouraging and we have adapted our products as a result, so we feel that we have some very worthwhile things going on at the moment.

i3Dlife / Wedgwood

What are some of the commercial, legal and licensing questions facing 3D content?

Chris Bamford: i3DLife is in the fortunate position of being able to capture 3D content, as well as manipulate, present, manage, search and police it. Holistically these are a very important group of solutions because 3D data is difficult to search for and even more difficult to police. Once a 3D model goes out to market it can be rendered, and used in many ways, so the challenge to the community that creates this valuable 3D data is to ensure that the asset is used legally, and pays respect to the original collection owner.

To this end we have recently been commissioned by ICTomorrow to work on their Digital Licensing Framework (DLF) and to help develop a platform that allows buyers/researchers to search though any number of 3D repositories which will connect data with usage rights and licenses. Ultimately the platform will allow you to find and use objects in a commercially acceptable, educational manner.

We are also developing, (and are due to present at the Design Council next week) our Content Commercialisation Framework, which sits alongside the DLF. This will allow purchases of rights managed collections from many repositories, and we are working towards delivering a system that allows seamless computer-to-computer negotiations to take place between collections and buyers.

You have some unique search tools?

Chris Bamford: Fronting these systems are our innovative searching tools, which allow a researcher to look through 3D repositories by sketchIng the shape of an object into our interface. The point of this is to take away some of the communication barriers, and to add value to the searching process. Sketching something to describe it is admittedly fairly neanderthal, but the technology isn’t – and it takes away all of the cultural and language barriers associated with traditional methods of searching and adding metadata.

Of course without beautiful and accurate 3D models none of the above would be of huge interest, but the methods of collecting unique 3D data are moving forward rapidly. We have spent a great deal of money reducing production pipelines, ironing out pinch points, and ensuring that we can deliver content that is commercially acceptable.

i3DLife / 3D Process

Which areas do you see the business expanding to?

Chris Bamford: Once you have the data you can create pretty much anything… animations, auto stereo presentations, 2D images, 3D images, augmented reality, haptics solutions, replication, on-line and gallery interactives, learning management systems, digital books like iBooks… the list is getting longer, and the ability to deliver to all these platforms becomes ever simpler.

The challenge for publishers is how to add value to the vast array of collections that could be captured, and the challenge to creators is to deliver those collections in a cost effective way. I can see the publishing industry revolutionising itself almost in the blink of an eye. Publishers like Carlton already have pipelines for delivering augmented reality books.

i3DLife / Mushroom

What is the future for this kind of imagery?

Chris Bamford: It could be that unique 3D collections will soon enter the realm of micro stock where photography departments, or commercial photographers choose to put some focus into 3D rather than 2D. The cost of systems to produce unique content is dropping rapidly… and some of the technology is already freely available. The issue is where in the 3D content spectrum one wants to appear… we aim for high quality, high polygon, faithfully reproduced rare and fragile objects, but there is an ever growing community of the small and simple. Our vision is for a community of professionals that create high quality content, and who wish to share this with the publishing industry, as well as authors and designers. To make use of this content the publishing industry will need to find new and innovative ways of presentation. I think this is where the commercial future and challenges lie… but the time is almost upon us.

Chris Bamford speaks on Friday at CEPIC

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