Unwrap a real mummy – Museum visitors explore historic artifacts using state of the art 3D reality capture and visualization technology

19 June, 2013 - 12:49

Interactive Institute Swedish ICT is part of the group of Swedish visualization researchers that has teamed up with The Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities – Medelhavsmuseet in Stockholm, FARO and Autodesk in a state-of-the-art mummy visualization project. The museum collection will be digitized in 3D using the latest 3D reality capture techniques and made available to museum visitors through a unique interactive exhibition experience.

As part of the development of a new permanent Egyptian exhibition, Medelhavsmuseet in Stockholm is making their collection of mummies available in digital form for the first time.

We aim to set a new standard for how museums work with 3D digitization and interactive visualization to make collections more accessible to other museums, researchers and museum visitors. In this project we work with mummies, but the same methods could of course be used on large variety of objects, such as natural history objects and other historical artifacts.

 – Thomas Rydell, Project Leader and Studio Director, Interactive Institute Swedish ICT.

Six mummies from the museum’s collection will be scanned using the latest 3D reality capture technology. The results will then be visualized using a real-time interactive visualization table developed by the Interactive Institute Swedish ICT. This table will be part of the new permanent exhibition, allowing visitors to discover the mummies in new ways.

“The technology will enable our visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the men and women inside the mummy wrappings. Layer by layer, the visitor can unwrap the mummy and gain knowledge of the individual, his or her living conditions and  beliefs in eternal life. Through this technology, the mummies convey and promote knowledge of our past as human beings.”  

– Elna Nord, Exhibition Producer, Medelhavsmuseet  in Stockholm.

The result is a compelling, interactive hands-on experience, allowing museum visitors to explore the mummies with the same tools that researchers and scientists use to make original discoveries.

The project starts with the mummies being scanned by forensic experts using state-of-the-art dual energy Computer Tomography (CT). The dual energy CT scan will not only reveal the interior in very high detail, but it will also reveal the type of material from which different objects inside the mummy are made. The dual energy technique also enables these objects to be visualized individually in greater detail.

Through collaboration with California-based 3D design, engineering and entertainment software leader, Autodesk and industry leading 3D measurement technology company, FARO, the intricate surfaces, colors and textures of the mummy, cartonnage and the sarcophagus will be surface scanned using a combination of photogrammetry and laser scanning reality capture methods. This will result in the generation of a 3D geometric mesh and associated textured imagery, in addition to the volumetric data captured by the CT scanner.

Autodesk ReCap software simplifies the process of documentation by creating contextual 3D digital data of physical objects and environments with laser scans and photos. This mummy exhibition is a new exciting application of reality capture technology because it demands incredible quality to deliver interactive, highly appealing visual content to engage visitors.”  

– Tatjana Dzambazova, Senior Product Manager, Reality Capture, Autodesk.

The volumetric data from CT scanning and the 3D mesh data and textures from surface scanning will then be combined in a real time rendering system, creating a true digital representation of the mummy with an unprecedented level of detail.

We literately create a virtual copy of the mummy. This version could be shared to other museums, be used for research or be part of an interactive visitor experience. We could also 3D print the mummy or objects that we find inside the wrapping, making them physical again.”  

– Thomas Rydell, Project Leader and Studio Director, Interactive Institute Swedish ICT.

Museum researchers or visitors will then be able to use simple gestures to explore the mummy as a whole or zoom in to see fine detail, such as carving marks on the sarcophagus. They can also remove the outer casings, unwrap the mummy, and peel off layers from the body to reveal anatomy and artifacts wrapped together with the body.

This project is a collaboration between Interactive Institute Swedish ICT, Norrköping Visualization Center C, Center For Medical Imaging and Visualization (CMIV)Medelhavsmuseet, Autodesk and FARO.

The project will result in a permanent Egyptian exhibition scheduled to open in February 2014.


Thomas Rydell, Interactive Institute Swedish ICT, thomas.rydell [at] tii.se, +46 707 73 17 09

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