Photo-masking a replica of a Jomon flame pot from Japan

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This application enables the creation of a high quality 3D model of an archaeological artefact via process known as photo-masking. There has been a revolution in 3D modelling in recent years and it is now relatively easy to construct such models from ordinary digital photographs. Isolating the object depicted in these photographs, and masking out the background, is an important first step to achieving high quality results. The final 3D model will be made publicly available and is useful not only for basic documentation purposes, but also for graphical displays in museums, for inclusion in gaming and virtual reality environments, or for identifying different sub-styles in otherwise similar types of artefact (that might tell us about the date of the artefact, where it was made, or by whom).

This particular photo-masking application is an experiment as we are attempting to model a complex piece of Japanese pottery. The term Jōmon (縄文) literally means ‘cord marked’ and is used to refer to Japan’s oldest known culture – the Jōmon people. This period is one of the oldest dated pottery traditions in the world, with pottery not being used in the Middle East or North Africa until several thousand years later. These vessels take their name from the elaborate flame-like protrusions around the rim. The rims and mouths of these pots held special importance for the Jōmon, as they would have been the focal point for the family gathered around the hearth.

What we want you to do

We would like people to draw a polygon around the object that they see in each photograph in order to identify its outline and exclude the image background. This allows the 3D modelling process to concentrate on the object itself and ignore irrelevant background information.

If you are interested in what our 3D completed models look like, please have a look at our Sketchfab profile.

This project is on behalf of:

University College London, Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures and The British Museum

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Find the code on GitHub

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