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Deadwood, SD
​Scanning Vintage Motorcycles In Sturgis

By TJ McCueWednesday, August 6, 2014
3D Design, Laser Scanning

It is the quietest collection of motorcycles you will ever see, at least while they rest comfortably in the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum in Sturgis, South Dakota. In this tiny town of roughly 7,000 people, most would not put the words “motorcycle” and “quiet” in the same sentence. Each year the town swells enormously as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally takes place – with some estimates showing 500,000 people come to town.

As a young man, I rode many different motorcycles, mostly off-road, but street bikes as well. Visiting this museum, for me, like it is for many others, was a ride into one’s dreams, some past or maybe future and if you’re lucky, current dreams of a bike you now own. There are some of the most famous bikes on loan here to the museum as well as some permanently on exhibit: Indian trail bikes, a wooden Harley, elegant Triumphs, and many more that I didn’t take time to count.

I visited the website and was taken further into the past where there is a quote from the famous book (at least among motorcycle philosophers): Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig. I read this book while in high school and still remember it. Here’s the quote:

"In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.""On a cycle the frame is gone. You're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming."

So it was with some degree of awe and reminiscing that we wandered and laser scanned the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. I posted about it earlier, right after the visit here: Lessons from the 3DRV Roadtrip. I mentioned that the Executive Director, Christine Paige Diers, was very welcoming and curious about 3D technologies and allowed us to laser scan the facility. We only did the top floor, but there is a lower floor filled with more bikes.

These two short videos show you the basic point cloud – we’re standing, virtually, outside the building and I zoom in to take you inside. You can see some of the motorcycles, in point cloud form, as we pan and orbit around the space. Those large gray-silver bubbles are the laser scanner locations – we did five scans. Some of the “ghosts” you might see in the scan are other museum visitors who stood still, in front of one bike, during that area’s scan. We explained that the laser is harmless to those who asked. Some asked if they would be in the image and we said yes, if they remained still. Some must have took that as an invitation to be included in the laser scan because they stayed in one spot, motionless, for some of the scans, which last almost 12 minutes.

The second short video shows the colorized version, which looks very much like a photograph, or a Google StreetView image where you can scroll around the location and see different aspects of the area. From what I have been told, this is not an actual photograph, but the laser scanning device adding color to all the points, not unlike a photograph, however.

The museum may be a quiet place, but it is filled with fun and often noisy memories of motorcycle adventures -- past and hopefully future for all who visit the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.

Follow along at! #3DRV

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