English-Video.net comment policy

The comment field is common to all languages

Let's write in your language and use "Google Translate" together

Please refer to informative community guidelines on TED.com

TEDGlobal 2011

Ben Kacyra: Ancient wonders captured in 3D

Filmed
Views 493,116

Ancient monuments give us clues to astonishing past civilizations -- but they're under threat from pollution, war, neglect. Ben Kacyra, who invented a groundbreaking 3D scanning system, is using his invention to scan and preserve the world's heritage in archival detail. (Watch to the end for a little demo.)

- Digital preservationist
Ben Kacyra uses state-of-the-art technology to preserve cultural heritage sites and let us in on their secrets in a way never before possible. Full bio

I'd like to start with a short story.
00:16
It's about a little boy
00:20
whose father was a history buff
00:22
and who used to take him by the hand
00:27
to visit the ruins of an ancient metropolis
00:29
on the outskirts of their camp.
00:33
They would always stop by to visit
00:36
these huge winged bulls that used to guard
00:39
the gates of that ancient metropolis,
00:42
and the boy used to be scared
00:44
of these winged bulls,
00:46
but at the same time they excited him.
00:48
And the dad used to use those bulls
00:50
to tell the boy stories about
00:52
that civilization and their work.
00:54
Let's fast-forward to the
00:58
San Francisco Bay Area many decades later,
01:01
where I started a technology company
01:04
that brought the world its first
01:07
3D laser scanning system.
01:10
Let me show you how it works.
01:12
Female Voice: Long range laser scanning
01:14
by sending out a pulse that's a laser beam of light.
01:16
The system measures the beam's time of flight,
01:19
recording the time it takes for the light
01:21
to hit a surface and make its return.
01:23
With two mirrors, the scanner calculates
01:26
the beam's horizontal and vertical angles,
01:28
giving accurate x, y, and z coordinates.
01:31
The point is then recorded
01:34
into a 3D visualization program.
01:36
All of this happens in seconds.
01:41
Ben Kacyra: You can see here,
01:46
these systems are extremely fast.
01:48
They collect millions of points at a time
01:51
with very high accuracy
01:54
and very high resolution.
01:56
A surveyor with traditional survey tools
01:58
would be hard-pressed to produce
02:01
maybe 500 points in a whole day.
02:03
These babies would be producing
02:06
something like ten thousand points a second.
02:09
So, as you can imagine,
02:12
this was a paradigm shift
02:14
in the survey and construction
02:17
as well as in reality capture industry.
02:19
Approximately ten years ago,
02:26
my wife and I started a foundation to do good,
02:29
and right about that time,
02:32
the magnificent Bamiyan Buddhas,
02:34
hundred and eighty foot tall in Afghanistan,
02:37
were blown up by the Taliban.
02:40
They were gone in an instant.
02:43
And unfortunately, there was
02:45
no detailed documentation of these Buddhas.
02:47
This clearly devastated me,
02:49
and I couldn't help but wonder about
02:51
the fate of my old friends, the winged bulls,
02:53
and the fate of the many, many
02:56
heritage sites all over the world.
02:59
Both my wife and I
03:02
were so touched by this
03:04
that we decided to
03:06
expand the mission of our foundation
03:08
to include digital heritage preservation
03:11
of world sites.
03:15
We called the project CyArk,
03:17
which stands for Cyber Archive.
03:20
To date, with the help of
03:22
a global network of partners,
03:24
we've completed close to fifty projects.
03:27
Let me show you some of them:
03:29
Chichen Itza,
03:31
Rapa Nui --
03:33
and what you're seeing here
03:35
are the cloud of points --
03:37
Babylon,
03:39
Rosslyn Chapel,
03:41
Pompeii,
03:43
and our latest project, Mt. Rushmore,
03:45
which happened to be one of
03:47
our most challenging projects.
03:49
As you see here, we had to develop
03:51
a special rig to bring the scanner
03:53
up close and personal.
03:56
The results of our work in the field
03:59
are used to produce
04:02
media and deliverables to be used
04:04
by conservators and researchers.
04:06
We also produce media for
04:09
dissemination to the public --
04:13
free through the CyArk website.
04:16
These would be used for education,
04:19
cultural tourism, etc.
04:22
What you're looking at in here
04:24
is a 3D viewer that we developed
04:26
that would allow the display
04:29
and manipulation of [the] cloud of points
04:31
in real time, cutting sections through them
04:33
and extracting dimensions.
04:36
This happens to be the cloud of points
04:38
for Tikal.
04:40
In here you see a traditional 2D
04:41
architectural engineering drawing
04:43
that's used for preservation, and of course
04:45
we tell the stories through fly-throughs.
04:48
And here, this is a fly-through
04:51
the cloud of points of Tikal,
04:53
and here you see it rendered
04:55
and photo-textured with the photography
04:58
that we take of the site.
05:00
And so this is not a video.
05:03
This is actual 3D points with
05:05
two to three millimeter accuracy.
05:07
And of course the data can be used
05:11
to develop 3D models that are
05:13
very accurate and very detailed.
05:16
And here you're looking at a model
05:19
that's extracted from the cloud of points
05:21
for Stirling Castle.
05:23
It's used for studies, for visualization,
05:25
as well as for education.
05:28
And finally, we produce mobile apps
05:31
that include narrated virtual tools.
05:33
The more I got involved
05:37
in the heritage field,
05:40
the more it became clear to me
05:42
that we are losing the sites
05:45
and the stories faster than we can
05:48
physically preserve them.
05:51
Of course, earthquakes
05:54
and all the natural phenomena --
05:56
floods, tornadoes, etc. --
05:58
take their toll.
06:00
However, what occurred to me was
06:03
human-caused destruction, which was
06:06
not only causing a significant portion
06:08
of the destruction, but actually
06:10
it was accelerating.
06:13
This includes arson,
06:16
urban sprawl,
06:18
acid rain, not to mention
06:20
terrorism and wars.
06:23
It was getting more and more apparent
06:25
that we're fighting a losing battle.
06:28
We're losing our sites
06:30
and the stories,
06:32
and basically we're losing
06:34
a piece -- and a significant piece --
06:36
of our collective memory.
06:38
Imagine us as a human race
06:41
not knowing where we came from.
06:43
Luckily, in the last two or three decades,
06:47
digital technologies have been developing
06:50
that have helped us to develop tools
06:53
that we've brought to bear
06:55
in the digital preservation,
06:57
in our digital preservation war.
06:59
This includes, for example,
07:01
the 3D laser scanning systems,
07:03
ever more powerful personal computers,
07:07
3D graphics,
07:10
high-definition digital photography,
07:12
not to mention the Internet.
07:15
Because of this accelerated
07:18
pace of destruction,
07:20
it became clear to us that we needed
07:22
to challenge ourselves and our partners
07:24
to accelerate our work.
07:27
And we created a project
07:29
we call the CyArk 500 Challenge --
07:31
and that is to digitally preserve
07:34
500 World Heritage Sites
07:37
in five years.
07:40
We do have the technology
07:42
that's scaleable,
07:44
and our network of global partners
07:46
has been expanding and can be expanded
07:50
at a rapid rate,
07:53
so we're comfortable
07:55
that this task can be accomplished.
07:57
However, to me, the 500 is
08:00
really just the first 500.
08:03
In order to sustain our work into the future,
08:07
we use technology centers
08:11
where we partner with
08:14
local universities and colleges
08:17
to take the technology to them,
08:19
whereby they then can help us
08:22
with digital preservation of their heritage sites,
08:25
and at the same time, it gives them
08:28
the technology to benefit from in the future.
08:31
Let me close with another short story.
08:35
Two years ago, we were approached
08:39
by a partner of ours to digitally preserve
08:41
an important heritage site,
08:44
a UNESCO heritage site in Uganda,
08:46
the Royal Kasubi Tombs.
08:49
The work was done successfully in the field,
08:52
and the data was archived
08:55
and publicly disseminated
08:57
through the CyArk website.
08:59
Last March,
09:02
we received very sad news.
09:04
The Royal Tombs had been destroyed
09:07
by suspected arson.
09:10
A few days later, we received a call:
09:13
"Is the data available
09:16
and can it be used for reconstruction?"
09:19
Our answer, of course, was yes.
09:23
Let me leave you with a final thought.
09:28
Our heritage is much more than
09:31
our collective memory --
09:34
it's our collective treasure.
09:36
We owe it to our children,
09:38
our grandchildren and the generations
09:41
we will never meet
09:43
to keep it safe
09:46
and to pass it along.
09:48
Thank you.
09:50
(Applause)
09:52
Thank you.
09:54
Thank you.
09:56
Thank you.
09:58
Well, I'm staying here because
10:09
we wanted to demonstrate to you
10:13
the power of this technology
10:16
and so, while I've been speaking,
10:19
you have been scanned.
10:22
(Laughter)
10:25
The two wizards that I have
10:29
that are behind the curtain
10:32
will help me bring
10:34
the results on the screen.
10:37
(Applause)
10:45
This is all in 3D and of course
10:52
you can fly through the cloud of points.
10:55
You can look at it from on top,
10:58
from the ceiling.
11:00
You can look from different vantage points,
11:02
but I'm going to ask Doug to zoom in
11:04
on an individual in the crowd,
11:07
just to show the amount of detail
11:10
that we can create.
11:13
So you have been digitally preserved
11:19
in about four minutes.
11:22
(Laughter)
11:24
I'd like to thank the wizards here.
11:26
We were very lucky to have
11:30
two of our partners participate in this:
11:33
the Historic Scotland,
11:37
and the Glasgow School of Art.
11:39
I'd like to also thank personally
11:42
the efforts of David Mitchell,
11:46
who is the Director of Conservation
11:50
at Historic Scotland.
11:53
David.
11:55
(Applause)
11:57
And Doug Pritchard, who's the Head of
12:02
Visualization at the Glasgow School of Art.
12:04
Let's give them a hand.
12:07
(Applause)
12:09
Thank you.
12:12

▲Back to top

About the speaker:

Ben Kacyra - Digital preservationist
Ben Kacyra uses state-of-the-art technology to preserve cultural heritage sites and let us in on their secrets in a way never before possible.

Why you should listen

As a child, Ben Kacyra was taken to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh near his home town of Mosul in Iraq, giving him an abiding appreciation for the value of history. So when the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001, the Iraqi-born civil engineer was dismayed. In 2002, he founded California-based nonprofit CyArk in order to apply a highly accurate, portable laser-scanning technology he’d originally developed for monitoring nuclear power plants and other structures – to preserving the world’s cultural heritage sites, what Kacyra calls “our collective human memory”.

CyArk’s methods are fast and accurate: pulsed lasers generate 3D points of clouds, which render surfaces at accuracy to within millimeters. Combined with high-definition photography and traditional surveying techniques these data make it possible to create highly detailed media – photo textured animations, 3D fly-throughs – that digitally preserve our knowledge of heritage sites against natural disaster, war, and neglect, and make them accessible to the world. Among the sites already scanned are ancient sites in Mexico, the leaning tower of Pisa, and Mount Rushmore.

More profile about the speaker
Ben Kacyra | Speaker | TED.com