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Researchers ran into a problem when they tried to scan and study the hole-ridden jawbone from Sue, the Field Museum of Natural History’s famous T. rex skeleton in Chicago. The jaw was just too big for their high-resolution 3-D scanner. So they turned to MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture group, which has created a low-cost 3-D scanning system that uses Microsoft’s Kinect video-game camera. The MIT team scanned the entire 5-foot-long skull to a resolution of 500 micrometers, taking advantage of free software and a hardware rig that cost only $150. The project is the subject of a research paper in this week’s issue of PLOS ONE. “A lot of people will be able to start using this,” principal study author Anshuman Das said in an MIT news release. “That’s the message I want to send out to people who would generally be cut off from using technology — for example, paleontologists or museums that are on a very tight budget. There are so many other fields that could benefit from this.”

Das’ co-authors are Ramesh Raskar, Denise Murmann and Kenneth Cohrn.

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