How 3D Artists are Preserving Chichen Itza
Posted by Dabney B. on Monday, April 15th, 2013
Some pieces of art are so precious that they deserve to be preserved forever. The Mona Lisa, the Washington Monument, the Eiffel Tower, London Bridge, and the Roman Coliseum are just a few examples. Unfortunately, tragic circumstances and the slow march of time ruin national treasures. Some of Iraq’s most iconic landmarks were destroyed during the war, so civil engineer Ben Kacyra decided to do something about it. He sold his company and started up a new nonprofit organization, Cyber Ark (CyArk).
CyArk’s mission is as noble as it is daunting: the 12-person team hopes to create accurate 3D models of the world’s most important landmarks and art pieces. The team uses laser-scanning gear to scan objects within a few millimeters of accuracy. So far, CyArk has captured landmarks such as Mount Rushmore, the Titanic, and Angkor Wat. Next up on their agenda is the legendary Sydney Opera House.
These digital databases, a veritable “Alexandria Library of 3D heritage data,” as executive director Tom Greaves puts it, serve a number of different functions. The most obvious one is that they will immortalize cultural heritage by safely storing away the precise dimensions of objects in cyberspace where the information will be immune to weather, natural disasters, and war. Architects can also use this data to faithfully restore landmarks and possibly even recreate scale replicas.
As you might expect, storing every single square inch of Mount Rushmore is a rather daunting task. Each project can soak up 500 GB to 10 TB of storage space, and they plan to take on projects in the future.
Whenever you mention 3D design, most people think that you have to spend all of your time glued in front of a computer screen. CyArk proves that with the right inspiration, the entirety of planet Earth can be your office. Interested in travelling as part of your career? CyArk has been to Cambodia, Australia, Hawaii, Easter Island, Egypt, Brazil, France, and the UK just to name a few. Jealous yet? I know I am.
I suspect that this type of 3D modeling will become more and more popular over the next few years, especially as 3D printing technology becomes more powerful and less expensive. People would love to be able to print their own miniature replicas of the Eiffel Tower or Chichen Itza. Maybe even one day we’ll be able to create perfect 3D snapshots of objects with our smart phones, but until that time comes we’ll have to rely on teams like CyArk to preserve our cultural heritage.
The main purpose of this post is to show you just how diverse your career as a 3D designer can be. If you’re the type of person who hates to be indoors, then you can spend your days flying all over planet Earth, climbing over ancient ruins, and exploring legendary pieces of architecture.