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3-D Software Helping Us Understand Our Past

In my job, I see what software lets people accomplish every day. With software, people are transforming the present, and pushing the boundaries of current limitations further and further out.  People are using software to shape the future in many ways, from using software to save the lives of more premature babies and infants in places without electricity, to helping NASA study Mars.

But I am intrigued to see an example of software also being used to help us understand the past.

Recently, researchers in Virginia’s Jamestown, established in 1607, found four undiscovered burial sites of early settlers. This discovery gave us valuable new information about early colonists and life in what was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas.

While this announcement made headlines on newspapers and TV, those stories were only partially told, using two-dimensional images.  For the “inner archaeologist” in many of us, there was much more to experience on the Smithsonian Institution’s website – a three-dimensional rendering of the burial site, available for all to view and explore.

To achieve this, Autodesk and the Smithsonian partnered to build the Smithsonian X 3D Explorer – a tool built exclusively to digitally showcase the Smithsonian’s most prized exhibits. Through the ingenuity of Autodesk’s software and the vision of the people who created it, the researchers’ work can be more fully viewed and understood by us all.  People with an interest in early American history can experience an incredible 360-degree view of this amazing, new finding that gives even more clues into what life was like at Jamestown four centuries ago.

Our ability to use software to offer unprecedented digital access to historical findings is just one of the ways software is making learning and history reach far beyond the classroom. It’s inspiring to see researchers use software innovation to help us understand our past, as well as look toward our future. In the case of the groundbreaking 3-D Jamestown rendering, companies like Autodesk are helping future explorers develop a passion for learning and for seeing in different, entirely new ways – and providing us all with a way to better connect with our own history.

From uncovering the past to exploring the future, amazing things are happening every day with software.

Victoria Espinel

Author:

Victoria Espinel is a respected authority on the intersection of technology innovation, global markets and public policy. She leads strategic efforts that help shape the technology landscape in 60 countries through work in BSA’s 10 global offices.

Espinel also serves as the President of Software.org: the BSA Foundation. Software.org is an independent and nonpartisan international research organization created to help policymakers and the broader public better understand the impact that software has on our lives, our economy, and our society.

Espinel served for a decade in the White House, for both Republican and Democratic Administrations as President Obama’s advisor on intellectual property and, before that, as the first ever chief US trade negotiator for intellectual property and innovation at USTR. She was also a professor of international trade and intellectual property at the George Mason School of Law.

Espinel is a founding and ongoing co-sponsor of Girls Who Code’s Washington, DC, summer immersion program, which empowers young women to pursue careers in STEM fields. She speaks before audiences around the world to build visibility for the amazing things people can do with software, and encourages businesses, governments, and the public to support a policy environment that will enable even more software breakthroughs.

Espinel chairs the World Economic Forum’s Global Future Council on the Digital Economy and Society. She was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiations (ACTPN), the principal advisory group for the US government on international trade. She holds an LLM from the London School of Economics, a JD from Georgetown University Law School, and a BS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriaespinel.

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