Melbourne: Australian researchers have created the first ever 3D map of the interior of Italy`s iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa by using a breakthrough mobile laser mapping system.
The Zebedee technology, developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia`s national science agency, is a handheld 3D mapping system that can scan an environment as an operator walks through it.
The laser scanner is mounted on a spring, which provides a lightweight solution for ensuring a wide scanning field of view. The spring converts the natural motions of the operator into a suitable sweeping motion of the scanner.
Specialised software then converts the system`s laser data into a detailed 3D map.
While the tower`s cramped stairs and complex architecture have prevented previous mapping technologies from capturing its interior, Zebedee has enabled the researchers to finally create the first comprehensive 3D map of the building.
"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," said Dr Jonathan Roberts, Research Programme Leader at CSIRO`s Computational Informatics Division.
"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," Roberts said.
CSIRO also collaborated with local Italian scientists from Scuola Superiore Sant`Anna (SSSA) for the project who believe the research will 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," said Franco Tecchia, Assistant Professor at the PERCRO - Perceptual Robotics lab.
"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," Tecchia said.