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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, President and CEO of BSA | The Software Alliance and President of Software.org: the BSA Foundation, 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.

Prior to heading BSA | The Software Alliance, Espinel served for a decade in the White House, for both Republican and Democratic Administrations. Espinel advised President Obama on pivotal IP issues in her role as the first US Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator. She was the chief US trade negotiator on IP innovation as the nation’s first Assistant United States Trade Representative for Intellectual Property and Innovation. She has also served as 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 at conferences 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 Agenda Council on the Future of Software & Society and 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.

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