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Virtual Learning Environments in Evolution, Osteology, and Anatomy

Putting priceless artifacts in the hands of undergrads.

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The most useful tools for teaching human evolution are ancient human bones. Unfortunately, ancient human bones are difficult to store a large collection of, difficult to responsibly provide students with access to, and priceless, irreplacable artifacts. Thus, the Knapp Interns have developed anthVR, or, as we affectionately call it, the Bone Lab.

The bone lab allows us to digitize our entire existing collection of casts, models, and real human bones, and to place them all in a library which we can share with anyone with a Vive headset, wherein students can compare them, re-size them, change their color, and drop them without fear of damaging the originals. Furthermore, as more collections are digitized, we are able to add bones from international museums, and collections which our students would never be able to interact with otherwise.

My involvment in this project consisted of creating the room itself, and in the digitizing of artifacts. Most of the various bones which students can interact with in the space were all scanned in using the Artec Spider scanner. The exception to this rule is the full human skeleton which stands in the corner. This particullar artifact was large enough to require the use of photogrammetry. The model is made from roughly 300 images, which were then reconstructed into a 3D format by myself, with the aid of Agisoft Photoscan.

AnthVR is was used as part of the coursework of Anth 209 (Forensic Anthropology) and Anth 207 (Human Evolution), and was presented at the The 88th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in 2019.