3D laser scanning used to preserve the world's treasures

AUTHOR: Inavate

3D laser scanning is being used to help remove the threat of permanent damage, either accidentally or maliciously, to the world's most famous historical architecture. Terrorist acts or natural disasters such as earthquakes can remove thousands of years of history in one moment, but thanks to technology by CyArk, a company founded by an Iraqi-born engineer, 3D laser scanning can ensure incredibly accurate digital versions of the world's treasures will remain.

The idea is not just to protect endangered structures, but to offer free educational access to the digital recreations of important monuments via the web.

"We have that data, and if something, God forbid, happens to these, the data is there," says Kacyra told CNN.

In fact, current events have already caught up with the project: the Royal Tombs of Kasubi, in Uganda, were destroyed in 2010 by suspected arson. CyArk had mapped them a year earlier, and that could lead to the reconstruction of what was lost.

To scan the surroundings, CyArk uses a portable laser device based on a technology called Lidar. It accurately maps a physical area much like a radar, but using lasers instead of radio waves.

Although its focus is in providing open access to cultural heritage, CyArk is also attracting interest for alternative uses of the technology.

"We are discovering applications way beyond what we had anticipated," says Kacyra.

"For example, the Highway Patrol wants to use it in accident reconstruction on the road or in crime scene investigations. Where did the bullets go, trajectories and all that - this gives you the entire thing in minutes and then you can do all the analysis work."