Research on the Utah Teapot

Taken fromWikipedia:

The Utah teapot is one of a handful of iconic models from the early development of 3D computer graphics, having been developed by Martin Newell and modified by his co-worker, Jim Blinn in 1975….taken fr Wikipedia

..It is a mathematical model of an ordinary teapot of fairly simple shape, which appears solid, cylindrical and partially convex. A teapot primitive is considered the equivalent of a “hello world” program, as a way to create an easy 3D scene with a somewhat complex model acting as a basic geometry reference for scene and light setup. Many libraries will even have functions dedicated to drawing teapots.[1]

The teapot model was created in 1975 by early computer graphics researcher Martin Newell, a member of the pioneering graphics program at the University of Utah.[2]

Newell needed a moderately simple mathematical model of a familiar object for his work. His wife Sandra Newell suggested modelling their tea service since they were sitting down to tea at the time. He got some graph paper and a pencil, and sketched the entire teapot by eye.[citation needed] Then he went back to the lab and edited bézier control points on a Tektronix storage tube, again by hand

The teapot shape contains a number of elements that made it ideal for the graphics experiments of the time: it is round, contains saddle points, has a genus greater than zero because of the hole in the handle, can project a shadow on itself, and looks reasonable when displayed without a complex surface texture.

Newell made the mathematical data that described the teapot’s geometry (a set of three-dimensional coordinates) publicly available, and soon other researchers began to use the same data for their computer graphics experiments. These researchers needed something with roughly the same characteristics that Newell had, and using the teapot data meant they did not have to laboriously enter geometric data for some other object. Although technical progress has meant that the act of rendering the teapot is no longer the challenge it was in 1975, the teapot continued to be used as a reference object for increasingly advanced graphics techniques.


Why is the Utah Teapot used? Where is it seen?

The Utah Teapot

Computers manipulate data. So, how do you get them to generate images? By representing images as data.

Martin Newell at the University of Utah used a teapot as a reference model in 1975 to create a dataset of mathematical coordinates. From that he generated a 3D “wire frame” defining the teapot’s shape, adding a surface “skin.”

For 20 years, programmers used Newell’s teapot as a starting point, exploring techniques of light, shade, and color to add depth and realism.


Taken from Computer History Museum site:


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