Sketchfab and scientific visualization

(Miekeroth) #1

Hi all,
First let me introduce myself for those who don't know me yet. I am Mieke Roth, science illustrator for over a decade now.

And among the first users of Sketchfab.

Most of the work me and my peers do, ends up on 2d displays. Doesn't matter if it's printed media or online, except for video, the use of current techniques is still in its infancy within the scientific illustration community.

Luckily I see that changing. Slowly but steady, I see more and more museums and research groups making use of 3d scans and displaying those scans online.

But that still isn't scientific visualization.

Scanning is to scientific visualization what photography is to scientific illustration. It is really great to look at, but it needs something more if you want to use it in science communication (because that is basically what scientific visualization is: communicating scientific insights to an audience).

So scientific visualization, like their illustration counterpart, requires insight and knowledge and the skills to convey that knowledge in a effective way.

A lot of my work here on Sketchfab therefor is, strictly speaking, no scientific visualization.


That is because most of my models here are originally used as a base for a 2d illustration. So they are stubs. Only recently I started making use of the full potential of Sketchfab regarding scientific visualization.

And that takes a different approach of 3d models than purely for 2d print.

In order to make proper use of real time scientific 3d, models need to be smaller and things that could be done after modeling in Photoshop for example, need to be incorporated into the model itself.

Like a friend of mine said, he is a teacher: "a 3d scan of a skull looks awesome, but I rather have a plain illustration. Then I know what I am looking at."

The Rat Skeleton by Mieke Roth on Sketchfab

(above) this is scientific visualization...

Rat skeleton by Mieke Roth on Sketchfab

* (above) this isn't..*

That is the base of scientific visualization: visualizing something in such a way that your audience knows what they are looking at and even can learn something from it. And not just see a pretty model and go on with the rest of their lives.


This is a rather elaborate introduction into my question here.

I want to start a discussion here on Sketchfab among the present users and everybody that likes to join and has some connection with scientific visualization about the use of Sketchfab in scientific visualization.

I see a lot of models scattered all over Sketchfab that could be used within scientific visualization and I would love to see more. Also I would love to discuss the possibilities of Sketchfab in real science communication. What is needed to encourage use of real 3d in science communication?

Do we need more easy to use examples of the viewer api ( ) or can we use the annotations more to our advantage?

How do we convert models that are first used for 2d use into something that would be great in real 3d? Do we need a game model approach for that or can we stay in between the really large models and the low poly ones? What about animation and the possibilities of having several animations on one model?

And most of all I would love to see as many examples as possible of sketchfab used in real scientific visualization.

The best ones will be in my Artist Picks. :wink:

(Chaitanyak) #2

Excellent start.
Especially enlightening was finally getting to know the distinction between scientific illustration vs visualisation ..

I believe it already is possible to have multiple animations in the same file on sketchfab(discovered it by accident), but am already working on a prototype that is easier for students and people not familiar with sketchfab's ui , will share that soon.

(Miekeroth) #3

Yes it is already possible, I am using it myself for different purposes, but I wonder how we can even make more use of it within models itself and in applications that use the models outside sketchfab itself.

(Chaitanyak) #4

One thing I was asked is about an offline mode. The teacher I showed sketchfab to, said the internet at her school is unreliable at times, so she's rather be able to load up an offline version in some way..
I just showed her that she can download the models that are available for download and use meshlab(simpler ui for her than blender) to display them. But the process was a bit too cumbersome for them to do on their own.

Possible sketchfab feature!? 😜

(Miekeroth) #5

That would be great I think. Don't know if it is feasable, because it could only be done for one model at a time I think.

(Miekeroth) #6

I am now working on the may bug I showed here on the forum earlier and I find myself re-inventing my workflow to make sure the sketchfab models can be used in science communication.
I always start with a high poly model but now I am not only making low poly end models that are just low poly, but they work also in animation. And I add several different textures so I can use those via the api to highlight specific parts of a model.
For now 20 annotations are more than enough, but annotations not always help to make things insightful. For that one needs the highlighted parts to really stick out. I think.

(Miekeroth) #7

The models of @Witmerlab are great examples of the use of scans in scientific visualization. They were already using it in 3d pdf's long before sketchfab existed. Luckily they are now on sketchfab.

Here an alligator hatchling skull.

The only remark I have is the size of the models themselves.

Alligator hatchling: Middle-ear air sinus system by WitmerLab at Ohio University on Sketchfab

(Alex) #8

Thank you for such a thread. Reading that I realized, that a possibility to select some part of model (changing color, transparency, hiding other parts) described by current annotation would be useful. Yet it may be difficult to implement.

(Miekeroth) #9

Hi @ayvlasov I am working on an application to do just that. The moment I have it working, I will write a tutorial similar to what I did for the annotation app. Probably today the tutorial will be published here on the Sketchfab blog, otherwise you can read it on the link I wrote above (just to be sure you have the right link; here it is again:

With the viewer api you can do a lot, luckily!

(Alex) #10

Thank you @miekeroth ! - I still did not try the API. Could I ask couple questions? If it necessary to use some hosting for a webpages to use that or I may use some desktop solution? If blog could be used?

(Alex) #11

I decided to use a separate folder for models with some relevance to scientific visualization.

(Bob Danforth) #12

While not a part of what I have here, I have seen and would like to see/do more in what I think is a much larger construct. I am thinking particularly of a NOAA display in Second Life in what a Tsunami was really like to experience. Before we had such real time actual examples in Japan and Sumatra, I think the concept was badly understood, and they provided a chillingly accurate one you could experience any time on their Second Life Sim.

Along with Global sealevel rise, Hurricanes, Moon or Martian Colony experiences, as well as nanotechnology in visible scales etc there is much that can be done. I did have an accurate Lunar landscape, but did not find anyone interested in building a colony type project.

(Miekeroth) #13

Sorry for the late reply, kids and flu and such.
For the application itself you need to have some sort of hosting, If you have an advanced wordpress theme you could use it within wordpress, but I don't because of the technical difficulties. So I have the files with code in a separate folder and use an iframe to incorporate it into my wordpress posts.

(Alex) #14

It's OK - I myself also realized that the solution you have described may be more convenient for use with own website. Yet I have tested sketchfab_app archive from your site and it worked somehow also on my local computer. I myself do not use own website mainly because traffic on my wordpress blog posts about science is too small to start think about additional efforts with separate project.

(Bart) #15

You could use the public folder in your Dropbox account too I think?

(Alex) #16

@bartv, I did not know about such option with DropBox - I supposed it is only file, document and image hosting and did not used that actively last couple of years or so after obtaining much more space from other provider. I will try to investigate the question

(Bart) #17

Be sure to put it in your public drive and then copy the public link. That should be a generic 'http://' link that you can open in your browser. Let me know how it goes!

(Alex) #18

@bartv it does not work for me. Any file with html extension produces 404 error even if file with same contents, but txt extension is accessible without problem

(Miekeroth) #19

for me too

(Bart) #20

Bugger. Maybe they've changed that :-/