Dire wolves and saber-toothed cats no longer prowl around the La Brea tar pits, but thanks to new research, anyone can bring these extinct animals back to life through augmented reality (AR). Dr. Matt Davis and his colleagues at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and La Brea Tar Pits collaborated with researchers and designers at the University of Southern California (USC) to create more than a dozen new scientifically accurate virtual models of Ice Age animals. , recently published in Electronic paleontology.
The team is studying the impact of AR on learning in museums, but soon realized that there weren’t yet any definite Ice Age animals in the metaverse that they could. use. So, they took all the latest paleontological research and made it their own. The models have been built in a blocky and low poly style so that they can be scientifically accurate, but still simple enough to run on normal cell phones with limited processing power.
According to study co-author Dr. William Swartout, chief technology officer at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, “The innovation of this approach is that it allows us to create scientifically accurate illustrations for the metaverse. without getting too involved in details where we still lack good fossil evidence.”
The researchers hope this article will also bring more respect to paleoart, the kind of art that recreates what extinct animals might have looked like. “Paleoart can have a big influence on how the public, and even scientists, understand fossil life,” said Dr. Emily Lindsey, assistant curator at La Brea Tar Pits and lead author of the study. However, much paleoart is an afterthought and is not subjected to the same rigorous scrutiny as other scientific research. This can lead to particularly bad reconstructions of extinct animals propagated for generations in both popular media and academic publications.
“We believe that paleoart is a crucial part of paleontological research,” said Dr. Davis, lead author of the study. “That’s why we’ve decided to publish all of the scientific research and artistic decisions that went into creating these models. This will make it easier for other scientists and paleoartists to critique and expand on our team’s work.”
Dr. Davis notes that acknowledging what we don’t know about these animals’ appearance is just as important as recording what we do know. For example, we can accurately depict the shaggy fur of Shasta ground sloths because paleontologists have found an entire skeleton of this species with hair and skin still preserved. But for the behemoths, paleontologists found only a few strands of hair. Their thick fur was an artistic decision. Dr. Davis and his colleagues hope that other paleoartists and scientists will follow their lead by publishing any research that goes into their reconstructions of extinct species. This will lead to better and more accurate paleoart for everyone.
This research was supported by an NSF AISL collaborative grant (1811014; 1810984) led by Dr. Benjamin Nye of the USC Institute for Creative Technologies, Dr. Gale Sinatra of the USC Rossier School of Education, Dr. William Swartout of the ‘USC Institute for Creative Technologies and Dr. Emily Lindsey of La Brea Tar Pits.
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Material provided by Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.