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Unveiling the Future of Museum Technology

The Amazing Laser Scanner

By Nathan HallPublished 7 months ago 2 min read

Since its inception in 1894, the Field Museum has been at the forefront of scientific research and educational outreach. Over the years, it has witnessed remarkable technological advancements, transforming it into a digital age institution. From computers to cameras, a YouTube show, and a vast digital database, the Field Museum has embraced the future of museum science.

However, recently, the museum received a visitor, Ryan Felice, a researcher from University College London, who introduced them to a piece of technology that feels like science fiction turned reality – the 3D surface scanner, aptly nicknamed the "Amazing Laser."

This revolutionary device is not a prop from Star Trek; it's a tangible and powerful tool that enables the creation of high-resolution digital representations of skeletal anatomy. The Field Museum is partnering with researchers like Ryan Felice to leverage this technology, enabling them to scan a wide array of specimens with unparalleled precision.

The reason behind the collaboration is simple: scientists aim to gather extensive information about 15-20% of species currently inhabiting our planet. To achieve this ambitious goal, they rely on museum collections like the Field Museum, which house an extensive array of specimens. In the past, researchers would have had to transport each specimen to specialized facilities for scanning, an impractical and sometimes risky process. But the Amazing Laser is changing the game.

This cutting-edge device features a laser emitter at its tip, which projects a blue line onto the specimen. Adjacent to the laser emitter is a camera, capturing the reflection of the laser as it strikes the specimen. Simultaneously, the device's arm provides spatial data, pinpointing the location of the laser gun in three-dimensional space. The combination of these data points enables the creation of a complete 3D model of the specimen, with jaw-dropping speed and accuracy.

Gone are the days of relying solely on photographs, calipers, and linear measurements. With the Amazing Laser, scientists can obtain incredibly detailed information, opening new doors for research. It's a giant leap forward in the field of anatomy and paleontology.

The research goal of this incredible technology is to understand the evolution of skeletal diversity across various land animals, birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, and more. By creating digital models, scientists can make highly nuanced measurements and quantify complex anatomical features. This technology enables them to conduct in-depth analysis in the comfort of their labs, rather than spending extended periods at museums or research facilities.

However, this technology doesn't spell the end of storing physical specimens in museums. While the Amazing Laser is a game-changer, it cannot replicate internal structures. There's a promise of future tools and technologies that will continue to advance the field, but having the original artifacts is indispensable for research and validation.

As technology progresses, researchers must ensure that new teams can revisit past studies, compare findings, and verify conclusions. Science's core tenet is repeatability, and having original specimens on hand is crucial for upholding the scientific method's integrity.

In the rapidly evolving landscape of museum technology, the Amazing Laser is a star player, but it's not the final act. It's a testament to the ceaseless pursuit of knowledge and the unwavering commitment of institutions like the Field Museum to remain at the forefront of scientific discovery.

The Field Museum and museums like it are embracing technology as a tool for exploration, enabling us to peer deeper into the past, present, and future of our natural world. The "Amazing Laser" is just one of the many fascinating chapters in the ongoing story of museum science and innovation.

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