User:Theredmonkey/Why we are lacking a 3D strategy

Nikolas Becker, July 12th, 2015

Wikimedia desperately needs a strategy for the integration of three-dimensional content. 3D illustrations of famous buildings, animal skeletons, and many more objects could dramatically enrich the user experience. Furthermore, a thought-through concept for 3D integration provides many new ways for volunteers to engage: Operating 3D-scanners, drawing 3D computer models, and creating walk-through scenarios. Therefore, we need an extensive and open discussion about technical and social hurdles, solutions, and their implications to the existing project community.

Video is not enough


In the beginning was the word, and the word was good. Soon thereafter the Wikipedians discovered the [[Image:]], and the readers liked it very much. So they also added video support, and the readers appreciated it.

The evolution of Wikipedia article illustrations seems to have reached its final stage. – However, with the integration of three-dimensional objects, we could open up a whole new dimension of illustrating content.

How this could look like

The Great Pyramid of Giza. A 3D model says more that 1000 pictures

Think of the Wikipedia article about the Great Pyramid of Giza. Imagine how amazing it would be if we could provide the reader with a detailed 3D model of the pyramid, that you can walk through, zoom in and out of and rotate freely … Consider also articles about topics such as brain, digestion, or red blood cells. How much easier could they be understood by touchable 3D illustration? Finally, envision how great architecture, ancient cities, mechanical devices, and microbiological models could be made accessible through a third dimension.

Community aspects


Integration of 3D models provides new cool opportunities for volunteers to engage:

  • We could provide local user groups and community spaces like Lokal K with 3D scanners so they can digitalize smaller objects in a collaborative process.
  • We could develop a smartphone app that allows travelling Wikipedians to record and digitalize historic sites and buildings they are visiting.
  • We could extend our partnerships with GLAM institutions who are already three-dimensional scanning their objects, such as Berlin’s natural history museum (cf.

Besides the creation of 3D objects, a whole bunch of new tasks will be created, such as curating and categorizing the models. This will hopefully attract new volunteers and enrich our community.

Technical questions


1. How to display? Implementing 3D into HTML is no longer rocket science. Since HTML5, 3D models can natively be displayed right within the browser. Thanks to WebGL and three.js third party plug-ins are no longer needed. Find examples here, and here, and more examples for Google Cardboard.
2. Where to store the data? Models could be stored on Wikimedia Commons and liked with further (meta) data on Wikidata.
3. How to edit models? There are hundreds of programs for editing and creating 3D models, such as Blender. But wouldn't it be great to be able to edit the model data not only on your own machine but also right inside Wikipedia/Commons? If no installation of specialized software would be needed, we surely could attract more people to engage in the creation of 3D objects. The easy to use web-editors by our colleagues from OpenStreetMap are good examples of how this could look like.

What do you think?


What do you think? Do you share my enthusiasm or are you rather concerned? Can you provide ideas for the technical implementation? Do you have further suggestions for community projects or how we could support volunteers who want to participate?

Please share your comments here or talk to me at the Wikimania!