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Since 2012, students from the Architecture Faculty at the University of Queensland (UQ) have been involved in digitising the former lazaret at Peel Island for the CyArk project.  One of the pieces of equipment they have been using is the robot shown below. This proved invaluable in scanning the interior of the former doctor’s house at the institution, whose floors have been rendered unsafe for humans to tread due to whiteant infestation.

The three wheeled robot with GoPro cameras front and back

The three wheeled robot with GoPro cameras front and back

To explain how CyArk works, it is best to go to its website at cyark.org which explains to us initiated folk:

CyArk uses cutting edge technology to capture detailed 3D representations of world’s significant cultural heritage sites before they are lost to natural disasters, destroyed by human aggression or ravaged by the passage of time.

By bouncing laser light off the surfaces, 3D scanners measure millions of points a second, accurate to a few millimeters to create a 3D data set, or point cloud. Colours represent the intensity of reflection from the surface.

Individual data points are joined together via small triangles, connecting each of the dots and forming a wireframe. These triangles are used to form a solid surface from the points, which creates a solid 3D model.

The 3D model generated from the point cloud is then coloured using photographs taken of the surface of the structure. The result is a photo-real 3D model which can be used to further study the monument and used for conservation and education.

This week I attended a demonstration of the Peel Island project at UQ, along with other members of the Friends of Peel Island Association (http://www.fopia.org.au) and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. The work already done by the UQ students is impressive and it is hoped to have the project uploaded on the CyArk site in the not too distant future. When this happens you’ll be able to  digitally explore the lazaret as it was back in 1955!

Peel Island Lazaret - c.1955 - buildings panorama (Dr Morgan Gabriel)

Peel Island Lazaret – c.1955 – buildings panorama (image from Dr Morgan Gabriel)

My only misgiving was the length of the project’s digital life on the web, given the rate at which the web’s technology is outdated. CyArk claims that it will keep up with all changes so that the project will last forever. Now ‘Forever’ is a rather a bold statement when it comes to the internet. I’ll be interested to see whether this claim holds true!