Smithsonian exhibits 3-D portraits of President Obama


A series of 3-D portraits of President Barack Obama went on display Tuesday at the Smithsonian in Washington. The portraits, which were created using digital scanning and printing technology, will be on view at the Smithsonian Castle through Dec. 31.

Teams from the Smithsonian and the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technology collaborated on the initiative. The USC team used face-scanning technology to scan Obama from ear to ear.

A Smithsonian team subsequently used handheld 3-D scanners and traditional single-lens reflex cameras to record peripheral 3-D data in order to create a bust of the president.


Following post-production work by graphics experts at the software company AutoDesk, the 3-D portraits were created by using 3D Systems’ Selective Laser Sintering (SLS) printers.

Obama sat for the scanning processes earlier this year. The Smithsonian said that the data and the printed models are part of the collection of the National Portrait Gallery.

The White House has released a three-minute video, which can be seen above, that shows Obama sitting for the scanning.

Official portraits are a tradition for all sitting U.S. presidents, but Obama is the first chief executive to have a 3-D digital portrait.

Separately, the National Portrait Gallery announced on Tuesday that it has installed a portrait of media mogul Ted Turner on the first floor of the museum as part of the exhibition “Recent Acquisitions.”

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT