Geo Week News

September 1, 2015

Oxford Deploying 5,000 Modified 3D Cameras to Fight ISIS

Temple of Bel

The Temple of Bel in Palmyra is the latest heritage site destroyed by ISIS

ISIS, or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, have been making news lately for a spate of atrocities including their ongoing destruction of cultural artifacts, relics, and even cities. As of today, the UN is reporting that the group has destroyed the Temple of Bel in Palmyra, a UNESCO World Heritage site dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries.

It seems that nothing spurs innovation quite like the risk of losing cultural history. Archaeologists from Harvard and Oxford’s Institute for Digital Archaeology are teaming up with UNESCO World Heritage to launch the “Million Image Database Project,“ which hopes to “capture one million 3D images of at-risk objects by the end of 2016.”

By the end of 2017, they aim to have 20 million scans, including pertinent GPS data.

Since the academics won’t be able to accomplish the work themselves, they’ve focused on making the tools for 3D capture much easier to use. They’ve developed what they are calling a “heavily modified version of an inexpensive consumer 3D camera that will permit inexperienced users to capture archival-quality scans.”

The military personnel, museum employees, and NGO volunteers who perform the scanning may not even have to upload the images themselves, as the Institute is saying that the internet-capable 3D cameras can upload these images automatically to database servers for study, or possible 3D printing.

Most surprisingly, the project plans to deploy up to 5,000 of these low-cost scanners throughout the world by the end of this year—a time frame of only four months. Distribution will begin in Iraq, with Lebanon, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan and Turkey to follow.

If the project works, it may bring set a precedent for inexpensive and expeditious digital heritage projects. To that end, the project is aiming to make all associated technology and software open source.

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