The Digital Michelangelo Project
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Recent improvements in laser rangefinder technology, together with algorithms developed at Stanford for combining multiple range and color images, allow us to reliably and accurately digitize the external shape and reflectance of many physical objects. As an application of this technology, I and a team of 30 faculty, staff, and students from Stanford University and the University of Washington spent the 1998-99 academic year digitizing the sculptures and architecture of Michelangelo. During this time, we scanned the David, the Unfinished Slaves, and the St. Matthew, all located in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, the four allegorical statues in the Medici Chapel, also in Florence, and the architectural settings of both museums. In the months ahead we will process the data we have collected to create 3D digital models of these works. The goals of this project are scholarly and educational. Our sponsors are Stanford University, Interval Research Corporation, and the Paul G. Allen Foundation for the Arts. In this extended abstract and invited talk, I will outline the technological underpinings, logistical challenges, and possible outcomes of this project.