The Teapot That Changed Computer Graphics History

The "Utah Teapot" became to graphics researchers what lab mice are to biologists.

A 1987 paper casually described the “the “newly discovered Teapotahedron” as the sixth Platonic solid.

Image via Nautilus, reprinted by permission of the Association for Computing Machinery, Inc., 1987.


In 1974, Martin Newell complained to his wife over tea: he needed a better model for graphical experimentation. Objects typically used for simulating reflections, like the donut, were too simple. She suggested their tea service, a simple Melitta set from a local department store.

The “Utah Teapot” soon became to graphics researchers what lab mice are to biologists. “Anyone with a new idea about rendering and lighting would announce it by first trying it out on a teapot,” writes animator Tom Sito. Nowadays graphics geeks sneak it into scenes/games, an homage to their countless hours of rendering teapots.

You can read the full story of the Utah Teapot, “The Most Important Object in Computer Graphics History,” at Nautilus.

Categories: Technology

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