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Tower of Pisa mapped in 3D for the first time

Australian researchers at CSIRO have developed a handheld laser mapping system that has allowed them to create the very first 3D model of the Tower of Pisa's interior.

Zebedee's final map of the Tower of Pisa.
(Credit: CSIRO)

Australian researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have developed a handheld laser mapping system that has allowed them to create the very first 3D model of the Tower of Pisa's interior.

The interior of the Tower of Pisa, in Italy, is notoriously difficult to scan in 3D, thanks to its narrow, winding staircase. Researchers from CSIRO have created technology that has allowed the creation of a scanned 3D model of the space for the first time.

Called Zebedee, after the character in BBC children's show The Magic Roundabout, it dispenses with the tripods and other apparatus that have made mapping the tower such a daunting prospect in the past. Instead, Zebedee is mounted on a spring attached to a handle, allowing its holder to fully map a space in the time it takes him or her to walk around it.

Screenshot of 3D point cloud created from Zebedee's scan. (Credit: CSIRO)

"Within 20 minutes, we were able to use Zebedee to complete an entire scan of the building's interior," said research program leader at CSIRO's Computational Informatics Division Dr Jonathan Roberts. "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."

Zebedee moves constantly back and forth, and using environmental features, it sees multiple times to calculate where it is in the space. This data is then used to create a 3D model.

"This technology is ideal for cultural heritage mapping, which is usually very time consuming and labour intensive," Dr Roberts said. "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 technology could potentially revolutionise how projects, such as the Scottish Ten project, map United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) World Heritage sites. Earlier this year, the Scottish Ten scanned the Sydney Opera House, creating a detailed map of the building for posterity.

Via www.csiro.au