Automatic Semantic Analysis of 3D Content in Digital Repositories.

This project aimed to demonstrate the use of 3D technologies for documenting and analysing shape in the cultural heritage domain. This project was funded by EPSRC, grant ref. EP/L006685/1. It ran from August 2014 to May 2016.


The increasing popularity of 3D technologies is having an impact on the amount of content that is being produced by users of these technologies. Witnessing the explosion of content such as images, music and videos available on the web, it is not difficult to predict that 3D will be the next type of content to undergo this effect.

The research community has been taking action to ensure 3D content can be stored and managed in databases or repositories in order to be accessible to a wide variety of users. Nevertheless, searching for 3D content in these repositories is not an easy task. The main problem is that although a digital 3D representation of a physical object is a more accurate representation, the way that the information is stored means that automatic solutions for understanding what the content represents is an unsolved challenged. To address this problem, the research community has created ways to tag or ‘attach’ additional information to the 3D content, as it is done with 2D images, to support the computer’s understanding of what the 3D content represents. However, this process is currently slow as it relies on mostly manual or semi-automatic techniques.

This project will take these basic techniques forward by researching on state of the art mechanisms to automate the enrichment of 3D content. This will be done by focusing on Cultural Heritage artefacts, in particular Regency architectural ornamental artefacts, to understand how the shape of an artefact might tell us information about it (e.g. its origin, artistic style, production methods). This high level information is currently very challenging to be inferred automatically. Thus, the project will combine expertise in shape analysis, the semantic web and Cultural Heritage in order to develop innovative techniques to automatically understand what the 3D content might represent. This process is referred to as “automatic semantic enrichment” and will allow the 3D content to be linked to a vast amount of information and knowledge which will facilitate making connections with other pieces of information.

As a result, searching for the most relevant item of 3D content amongst the petabytes of information stored in the database will be considerably improved. In turn, this will improve the availability and use of 3D content for different purposes. For instance, the project will demonstrate how the research can support the restoration of historical buildings.