Mount Rushmore in 3.3 Billion Points: Digitally Preserving World Heritage in 3D

Sydney Opera House Perspective used with permission of Cyark

Sydney Opera House Perspective used with permission of Cyark

We’ve recently learned about an amazing laser scanning organization called CyArk.  If you remember the stories of the Taliban ordering the destruction of the 175 foot tall giant Buddha statues  in Afghanistan or saw video of the massively devastating Japanese tsunami, you’ll quickly understand CyArk’s purpose.  CyArk uses 3D laser scanning, photogrammetry and other advanced technologies to capture 3D information for the purposes of digital preservation of heritage sites often lost through natural disasters, human conflict or simple deterioration.  This digital preservation provides resources for site management, documentation, tourism, education, archiving and sustainability.  The archiving function is taken so seriously that the data is maintained in a secure underground facility in Pennsylvania.  CyArk also makes all non-sensitive information in its archives available free through its website and also has even created lesson plans to assist in education.  These aren’t an 8-bit Nintendo or Minecraft rendering of a site, they highly detailed surveys average 2 TB of data each!  The surveys are a blast to browse and I personally love the 3D point clouds and models where you can “fly” around the objects.  The virtual tours are also amazing, especially if your travel budget isn’t what you’d like it to be.  You may recall we wrote about laser scanning sites like golf courses and race tracks for video games, but Cyark does its work for far different and more noble purposes.

Mount Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore using photography, meshing, point cloud and 3D modeling.

Some of the completed sites include Mount Rushmore, the Sydney Opera House, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Tower of London, Pompeii and the Titanic.  To-date CyArk has archived over 100 sites, but their hazard map showing sites at risk includes nearly 1,000 places on all 7 continents.  Last October saw the launch of the CyArk 500 Challenge which seeks to digitally preserve 500 sites in the next 5 years.  CyArk is not alone in this effort, their partner list is a “name dropper’s” heaven including groups like Google, IBM, AutoDesk, PBS, the National Park Service and the Air Force.

Perspective of Pisa created with laser scan data.

Perspective of Pisa created with laser scan data.

CyArk has contemporaries doing work in related areas for similar purposes.  Ireland has also started to capture the hundreds of Ogham Stones which record its history.  Hopefully this information and others like it will soon be added to the CyArk archives.  You may soon be able to do the same type of digital preservation of your own home for insurance purposes or perhaps just to show off your recent renovations.  A pair of Kickstarter projects could allow you to do just that with your mobile device.  The Spike adds a long range laser range finding to your cell phone to capture the exterior while Structure uses IR LEDs with a range of about 10 feet which would be great for the interior.  This could be great for that historic local church or courthouse that might not be internationally significant, but is very significant to the local populous.  CyArk has set up several local technology centers that could potentially assist in these efforts.

Although some organizations may have a book or bookshelf worth of digital preservation, CyArk is a true international virtual library of heritage sites.  Printing DDD applauds the effort of CyArk and encourages everyone in the 3D community to get involved and use our time, talent, treasure and technology for the good of generations to come.


2 thoughts on “Mount Rushmore in 3.3 Billion Points: Digitally Preserving World Heritage in 3D

  1. Pingback: 3D Printing and Scanning Revolutionizing Museums | Printing DDD

  2. Pingback: How 3D Scanning and Assassin’s Creed Could Help Rebuild Notre Dame | Printing DDD

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