Anatomic Comparison of Human Skulls
The Challenge: In a recent scientific paper on a study of human origins, several virtual models of the skull of a hypothetical last common ancestor of modern Homo Sapiens. The models were differentiated by the hypothesized history of evolution of Homo Sapiens. Different hypothesized timelines of separation of populations lead to different morphologies -- shapes -- of the reconstructed skull of the common ancestor of modern humans. A way was sought to visually compare the 3D models generated in this study.
The Solution: The 3D models were downloaded from the online Supplementary Data published by Nature COMMUNICATIONS. These models were in PLY format. They were converted into X3D format using the open-source Meshlab format; and additional elements of the scenegraph including lighting, viewpoints, and metadata were added to the X3D files using the open source X3D-Edit plugin to Netbeans.
A specialized navigation method was implemented using the X3D Standard interactive nodes, include the SphereSensor node for interpreting mouse interaction with the skulls. This navigation method entailed linking the rendering of the skulls so they are both viewed at a common orientation.