WASHINGTON—In what is being hailed as a breakthrough in the field of historical record-keeping, the National Archives announced Monday that it would immediately begin outfitting Barack Obama's chest, limbs, and face with an array of motion capture sensors for use in preserving a 3-D account of his time as president.
"The presidency of Mr. Obama is truly a landmark event, and I can think of no better way to honor it than with this $2.5 billion advanced digital-imaging project," acting archivist Adrienne Thomas told reporters. "Not only will our sensors provide unprecedented moment-to-moment documentation of a sitting U.S. president, but they will also give the American people the breathtaking realism and seamless layer animation they have come to expect."
According to sources at the National Archives, Obama will spend the next four years in a custom-made, lycra-and-neoprene bodysuit, featuring 238 reflective "marker balls," which will instantly relay trillions of bytes of information to a central computer in Centennial, CO.
Designers at the motion capture firm Vicon Motion Systems will then use this information to build a lifelike 3-D wire-frame model of the nation's 44th president, before digitally "painting" over the structure with computer-generated skin, hair, and clothes.
The data will be stored on a hard drive at the National Archives, where curators will employ it as a complete record of Obama's tenure in office.
"Our 78-person team is committed to capturing each and every nuance of the Obama administration," Vicon CEO Douglas Reinke said. "Years from now, historians will be able to access high-quality images of what the former president might have looked like while he was, say, meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on April 3, 2009, or tying his shoelaces on the afternoon of June 3, 2011."
Added Reinke, "It's like actually watching the presidency unfold."
Reinke explained that Obama will be required to wear the motion capture device at all times during his presidency, barring a few minutes each day to shower and change into a fresh bodysuit. In addition, the president has been instructed to refrain from performing any activities that might cause the sensors to malfunction, such as running, breathing heavily, or letting his core temperature rise above 99.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Sources at Vicon also confirmed that members of Obama's Secret Service detail will have to carry a large green-screen background behind the president at all times.
"We will extend our full cooperation to the people at Vicon in order to make this 3-D record a reality," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs rold reporters Monday. "Nothing is more important to us than preserving this moment in history at 120 frames per second, with perfect surface anatomy, and total texture definition."
Many scholars have also praised a feature of the motion capture technology that would allow future generations to digitally alter the president's wire-frame model by retroactively modifying clothing, facial features, skin tone, and even accessories.
"Imagine being able to see what it might have looked like had Obama been wearing a bow tie when he delivered his first State of the Union address," American historian Joseph Ellis said. "Or if he'd been sporting a luxurious mustache while sitting down with the prime minister of Japan. The possibilities for customization are endless."
Despite the unprecedented level of access the motion capture suit provides, a number of firms are pursuing additional technologies that might lead to even more precise records. Such proposals include a miniature camera that could be placed down Obama's throat to keep track of his exact food and drink intake, and a small microphone that could be inserted in the president's inner ear to pick up the sound of him humming or any low-level mumbling he might emit while in office.
"In a perfect world, we would like to have a record of every single physical detail of Obama's historic presidency, down to even the most minute anatomical processes," said Stephen Dunkin of Mycore Electronics, which is currently developing a device that will retrieve and store any dead skin that Obama may shed during the course of his presidency. "But unfortunately, we're just going to have to accept the fact that, with the technology we have now, certain details will simply be lost to the sands of time."
The president himself was unable to be reached for comment on the new technology because he and his staff were still busy trying to figure out a way for him to sit down.