President Barack Obama was the first African-American to be elected to the office, the first sitting president to publicly express support for same-sex marriage — and now the first living president to be printed in 3D.
A series of three-dimensional portraits of Obama went on display at the Smithsonian in Washington on Tuesday. The life-size renderings were created by teams from the Smithsonian and the University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technology using state-of-the-art digital scanning and laser-printing technology.
President Obama sat for the 3D scan in the White House, where a mobile light stage comprised of 50 LED lights, eight high-resolution cameras and and six wide-angle cameras was used to create the busts.
"Ten years ago, it was just barely possible to think this could be done," Paul Debevec, head of USC's Creative Technology Institute, explained in a three-minute video released by the White House.
The resulting portraits will be part of Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery. While all sitting U.S. presidents have had official portraits painted, Obama's is the "highest resolution digital model" of any head of state.
According to Gunter Waibel, director of the Smithsonian's Digitization Program Office, the inspiration for Obama's 3D portrait came from the Lincoln "life mask," a digital composite of President Lincoln's face that is also part of the National Portrait Gallery collection.