Technology Creates New Perspectives on Christopher Columbus Monument, History (Guest review from Isaac Budmen)

Isaac Budmen, of Syracuse, is an inventor. He is the founder of Budmen Industries and CEO of Figment Works Inc.

The controversial debate between keeping controversial statues or removing them has reached a boiling point. In Syracuse, our discussion revolves around a downtown landmark, the Christopher Columbus monument. An imposing 11-foot bronze statue of Christopher Columbus stands atop a large pedestal. On both sides of the debate, there are heated opinions about whether to keep or remove the statue. My opinion is that of expediency. This is the opportunity to move forward instead of looking back. What if the way we interact with history is about to change dramatically?

In 2013, I asked the question: what if you could 3D scan something larger than life with a drone? Soon after, a friend and I spent a sunny afternoon flying a drone around the Christopher Columbus monument. The experiment was a great success and the result was a high resolution 3D model of Columbus. Now this experience seems more relevant than ever.

3D scanning provides a detailed digital copy of a physical object. These digital copies will last long after their physical counterparts are gone. For conservatives, there is no better way of conservation. 3D scans are great for recreating and restoring artifacts with stunning precision. They preserve these precious objects without any fear of environmental degradation. As digital assets, they can be easily shared online and made accessible to everyone. But more opportunities arise when we transfer these 3D scans to other technologies.

Send the 3D scan of Columbus to a desktop 3D printer and a few hours later you will have a plastic miniature replica ready for display. 3D printing is advancing at a rapid pace. Every day there are new inventions and new possibilities for 3D printers. With large scale 3D printers, like those in print shops, you can create a 1: 1 scale replica of the original. Or get a food 3D printer and you can print a pie-crusted Christopher Columbus statue for dessert on Columbus Day. Advances in ceramic, glass and even aluminum 3D printing open the door to almost endless possibilities.

Send the 3D scan to another technology, like virtual reality, and the possibilities multiply exponentially. Virtual reality uses headset technology to create an immersive simulated environment. Praised by gamers, virtual reality is now entering new disciplines. Imagine putting on your virtual reality headset. You suddenly find yourself near the Christopher Columbus monument in downtown Syracuse. The sun is shining, the leaves are starting to turn and you can hear the bubbling of the fountain. Slowly, your feet seem to leave the ground. You float along the monument until you come face to face with Columbus. As if by magic, the statue comes to life. He puts his hand in his pocket, pulls out his diary and starts reading about his travels.

How will the way we understand our history change if we interact with it in such a deeply personal and immersive way? Will we be more open to the context surrounding historical figures and events? Will we develop a greater appreciation for nuances and differences in culture and identity?

The study of history is essential to our personal and community development. Knowing where we came from opens the door to a better future. This collective tribal knowledge teaches us to move society forward instead of repeating the mistakes of our past. This is the opportunity of 3D scanning. It summarizes our story in an easily accessible and shareable format. It is an opportunity to invent a better society, with richer experiences and more colorful debates.

Whether Columbus is a hero or a heel in your eyes, the digital preservation of our history is an opportunity to evolve our discourse with new perspectives and new ideas.

Related: CNY couple, using 3D printers, make hundreds of face shields for coronavirus testing clinic

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