A team of professionals from the University of Michigan Repository of Fossils is working on a new tool that relies on 3D technologies developed in the last 3 years. Their tool is making it possible for young students to understand and learn in a more fun and reliable manner what is the role of each bone and where does it stand in the skeleton of a prehistoric mammoth.
A mastodon usually has somewhere around 250 bones. Surely, the size of the skeleton that comes out of these pieces is impressive. However, seeing it as a static piece of information, in a dusty Victorian room of the museum, does not leave you with any more than the impression of something awe-inspiring. For a student who is trying to understand the relationship that exists between the bones and the way that they form the bone system, it is not very inspiring, none the less.
Therefore, the team started to look for ways to create a more interactive tool, that could help students learn and have fun at the same time. Their choice was to use high-resolution photos, CT scans and photo realistic 3D imaging of a selection of its fossil collection, in order to come up with an interactive online tool that allows students to use 3D models of the fossils. They can “manipulate these objects onscreen and to do very much what we would do if we had the real specimen in our own hands — zoom in on it, rotate it this way and that, and even make measurements of it,” commented one of the team members, during a conference that presented their tool, in Greece, as wired.co.uk tells.
The 3D models that are used by the interactive online tool were made up by rendering the images obtained using handheld digital scanners. For them to capture these mastodons in high definition, from all angles, it was quite a challenge. The results however, are amazing. For some of the smaller species, the details are incredibly easy to see. It is just as if you were holding the bones in your hands.
The tool will surely prove to be useful to those researchers that are still finding bones in the field. Since the skeleton of a mastodon has so many bones. For example, only their foot has 35 bones. Using the tool, you can have a quick and clear idea where it could be from. The platform is surely one of the most innovative ways to attract and inspire generations of palaeontologists to come.