University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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ICON – A Content Exchange Mechanism for 3D Cultural Heritage Models
James Miles, Richard Beales, Ajay Chakravarthy, Ken Meacham, Michael Selway, Mike Stapleton, Sam Kuhn, James Stevenson, Carlos Jimenez, Steve Luther

Last modified: 2011-12-19


The ICON project is developing a content exchange mechanism through which high-quality digitised 3D models of cultural artefacts generated for curatorial purposes can be shared and repurposed for wider creative applications.

UK museums have always been active in their support for the creative industries. 2D photographic reproductions of objects in their collections have been available through their commercial picture libraries for many years, and images from UK collections can be seen on a daily basis in fine art publications and general media as well as on film and television. With the development of computer graphics in film and TV, computer games, and ubiquitous multimedia on the web, there is now a strong demand for equivalent 3D content. High-quality digitised 3D models and textures of cultural artefacts, of the kind now being created by many museums and archaeologists, are required for use in film and television post production, games development and architectural visualisation. There are also exciting opportunities to include 3D cultural heritage models in art and antiques websites and eMagazines, in-gallery interactives and handheld digital museum and site guides.

In their raw state, 3D models generated by high-end laser and structured light scanning techniques are not easily reused for creative applications. In part this is due to the file-sizes and formats of the 3D models themselves, but the accompanying metadata is also often highly specialised, meaning that the value of a model for a particular creative application can go unrecognised. In this paper we will present the tools and techniques developed to achieve the vision of ICON, which address both of these challenges.  

We start with the description of the 3D web portal which is being developed for ICON. This portal will allow for the storage and retrieval of models using smart search features such as faceted searching and will include secure functions for exchange or licensing of models between organisations. We also describe the metadata management modules developed within ICON which enable the management and integration of curatorial metadata recorded in heterogeneous sources (e.g. different museums) into a common knowledge model which provides a shared, consistent vocabulary for all users of ICON, and outline the semantic search tools we have developed to allow related groups of objects to be identified. The 3D viewer that we have created specifically to present cultural heritage models and their accompanying metadata is also presented. Finally we describe our experience in 3D-scanning museum objects and the considerations that need to be taken into account when transcoding them into usable 3D meshes for use by the digital creative industries.


Cultural heritage; Three dimensional; Laser Scanning; Structured light scanning; web portal; semantic;3D viewer;