When 3D Technology Meets Digital Art

(Or: Strange things happen when a purple seagull meets Lenin in the city hall of Jerusalem)

This is the renaissance of 3D technology. 3D data can be created, accessed and visualized better than ever before. Can this renaissance help creative people to push the boundaries of their industries? Can smooth, beautiful and easy to use 3D technology enable visionaries to break convention?

For some industries, it seems that the answer is a straightforward YES. Automotive, drones, ag-tech, urban planning, and many more – all of those sectors seem to flourish with innovation, many of the inventions are based on 3D tech. At Webiks – being a consultancy that is focused on 3D & geospatial technology – we meet a lot of those visionaries and help them with the implementation of their innovations.

But can we go one step further?

The fields mentioned above are all very down to earth. Most of them involve companies that wish to disrupt a traditional industry with innovative technologies. Most of them have clear, measurable, business goals.

Can 3D technology enable innovation in artistic domains as well? Does it treasure some spiritual aspects?

We have been thinking about this aspect of 3D tech for a while now, but haven’t really done anything concrete about it. That’s why we were so excited when the contact with the founders of The Virtual Salon was made.

The Virtual Salon is a technological platform for the global art community. Smadar Tsook and Shira Rivelis, the founders, believe that the digital space expands the borders of public discourse.

In an intense and focused effort, based on a prototype they had previously developed, we have built virtual-salon.com – a first version of The Virtual Salon vision: A platform that leverages 3D technology to the point where physical and digital artworks meet in a unique fashion.

Blending the physical and the virtual artosphere treasures some really interesting possibilities. On the one hand, physical artworks and art galleries can be captured and transformed into the digital space, freeing them from time and physical space constraints. On the other hand, digital art can be enriched with physical context. Native-digital artworks can be planted in the photo-realistic digital representation of the physical world, expanding their meaning with physical, geographical and cultural context.

Sounds crazy, right?

The first version of The Virtual Salon platform scratches the surface of this 2-way potential:

Physical to Digital

Physical galleries, studios and museums in Jerusalem were 3D scanned by The Virtual Salon team and uploaded to the platform. The users can navigate in a realistic 3D model of the city of Jerusalem, pick a gallery and “dive in”. Once they do, they get a google-street-view-like experience – taking a virtual tour through a physical gallery.

“Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.”

Says Richard Bach’s over-quoted seagull, Jonathan Livingston.

And indeed – The Virtual Salon overcomes space & time constraints. You don’t have to be physically in Jerusalem to take a tour at the beautiful Jerusalem Artists’ House.
Overcoming time is even more dramatic. Art exhibitions have to start and end sometime. But what if we want to visit a past exhibition? The digital archive of galleries on the platform allows us to do exactly that.

Jerusalem Artists’ House

Digital to Physical

“If you will practice being fictional for a while, you will understand that fictional characters are sometimes more real than people with bodies and heartbeats. “

Same Richard Bach

Digital 3D artistic models were collected and uploaded to the platform. In a virtual exhibition they directed and edited, called “This Is Not a Map”, Smadar and Shira have gathered digital artworks from 14 artists and positioned them in key locations in Jerusalem. Assimilating virtual artworks in the dense realistic 3D representation of the city gives rise to some Jonathan Linvingstonian thoughts… What does placing a 3D artistic model of Vladimir Lenin in Safra Square, just outside Jerusalem’s City Hall, symbolize?

“Lenin Cerberus, Protector of an Ideology”, 2015, an artwork by Carlos Boyzo Oregon

This exhibition brings to life a vivid, realistic 3D map of digital artworks (but wait a minute, they said this is not a map. But it is a map. Is it a map? I’m confused. Artistically confused).

The tech stack

While The Virtual Salon platform is definitely in an early stage, we were able to build the current platform rapidly and easily, thanks to the stack of 3D and geospatial libraries and standards, most of which are open-sourced:

  • The scene is rendered with CesiumJS, an open-source javascript library for visualizing 3D virtual globes.
  • The photo-realistic model of Jerusalem was created by Simplex, a high resolution 3D mapping technology startup.
  • This Jerusalem model is enormous. Streaming it to the browser in real time is enabled thanks to 3D Tiles, an open standard for streaming massive heterogeneous 3D geospatial datasets. 3D Tiles extends the traditional concept of 2D map tiles to a flexible 3D spatial data structure.
  • The 3D artworks were created by the artists themselves, and then converted to glTF, an open specification for efficient transmission and loading of 3D models, with support for geometry, textures, materials and animations.
  • The galleries were captured, modeled and served by using matterport, a SaaS product for 3D modeling.
  • The 3D panoramic preview of the galleries is based on Panolens.js, an open source javascript panorama viewer.

The platform supports desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile devices.

“Golden NetBob”, 2019, an artwork by George Blaha, visualized in 3D inside the mobile version of The Virtual Salon platform

Epilogue

This is the renaissance of 3D technology. Leveraging 3D tech to push the traditional boundaries is easier than ever before. We are excited and are looking forward to meeting more visionaries that want to explore how 3D and geospatial tech can be used for accelerating inovation in their domains!

Some links and thank yous

  • The first version of The Virtual Salon platform is available right here.
  • The exhibition “This Is Not a Map” is attending this year’s The Wrong, a global digital art biennale.
  • The platform was developed by Shachar Mossek and Roy Nevo, two of Webiks’s finest engineers 💪.
  • If you want to discuss 3D & geospatial technology with us, you are invited to contact us at webiks@webiks.com.
  • Feel free to follow our Linkedin and twitter accounts..

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