Sep.19, 2013

A team of Australian researchers have created the most detailed interior 3D map of Italy's iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa by using a breakthrough handheld scanner.

Researchers from CSIRO, Australia's national science agency, has developed the Zebedee technology, a handheld 3D mapping system incorporating a laser scanner that sways on a spring to capture millions of detailed measurements of a site as fast as an operator can walk through it. Specialised software then converts the system's laser data into a detailed 3D map.

The device enabled researchers to climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa and came back with the first detailed and comprehensive 3D map of the entire building, despite the tower's cramped stairs and complex architecture.

Zebedee consists of a lightweight LiDAR scanner with approximately 30m (100ft) maximum range and a industrial-grade MEMS inertial measurement unit (IMU) mounted on a simple spring mechanism. As a user holding the device moves through the environment, the scanner loosely oscillates about the spring, thereby producing rotational motion that converts the LiDAR's inherent 2D scanning plane into a local 3D field of view.

With its software package, the six degree of freedom sensor trajectory can be accurately and continuously calculated from the laser and inertial measurements in real-time, and the range measurements can be projected into a common coordinate frame to generate a 3D point cloud.

"Within 20 minutes we were able to use Zebedee to complete an entire scan of the building's interior. This allowed us to create a uniquely comprehensive and accurate 3D map of the tower's structure and composition, including small details in the stairs and stonework." said Dr Jonathan Roberts, Research Program Leader at CSIRO's Computational Informatics Division.

"This technology is ideal for cultural heritage mapping, which is usually very time consuming and labour intensive. It can often take a whole research team a number of days or weeks to map a site with the accuracy and detail of what we can produce in a few hours."

This detailed scan is not only beautiful, but it will also have significant impact on preserving the cultural heritage of the site.

"Our detailed record of the Leaning Tower of Pisa may one day be critical in being able to reconstruct the site if it was to suffer catastrophic damage due to natural disasters such as a fire or an earthquake. Having a detailed 3D model of the world's most significant cultural heritage sites could also be used to allow people who cannot physically visit these sites to better understand and appreciate their history and architecture," said Franco Tecchia, Assistant Professor at the PERCRO - Perceptual Robotics lab.

In addition the scanner can also be used to increase efficiencies and improve productivity, for example, in assisting mining companies to better manage their operations and helping security forces to quickly scan crime scenes.

The technology is now commercially available as ZEB1 3D scanner through UK-based 3D Laser Mapping.

Posted in 3D Scanning



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