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Trees turn psychedelic through the eyes of a 3D laser scanner

A trippy image of a forest shows how the latest scanning technology is helping the lumber industry look at trees in a new light.

This forest looks a little different than normal. The European Space Agency released an image Wednesday showing what a woodland area looks like from the perspective of a 3D laser scanner. The result makes it seem like the scanner was partying a little too hard at Woodstock.

Irish timber optimization company Treemetrics developed the scanner. The device conducts a "360-degree survey at regular intervals to measure the straightness and health of trees."

While humans would get distracted by details like bark and branches and leaves, the scanner sees colorful trunks that highlight the geometry of the trees to help with valuing the future lumber and deciding which trees to harvest. It would also make for a pretty sweet screensaver.

The results of a woodland laser scan.


Treemetrics and the ESA are working together on a project that involves using satellite communications to monitor and track equipment and harvesting in real time. This is especially useful for remote forest areas.

"What Treemetrics aims to deliver is more wood from fewer trees, through a complete end-to-end forest management system. It combines forest mapping, assessment and valuing with decision-making tools for harvest planning as well as real-time monitoring of the cutting and collecting process," Treemetrics CEO Enda Keane said.

Though our planet may have 3 trillion trees, according to a study by a Yale University team, they are still a limited resource. The 3D scanner and ESA satellite technology are new pieces in play for keeping forests healthy while still supplying the world's demand for tree products.