CSIRO mine safety tech becomes archaeological tool
Zebedee helps map ancient cave etchings
A 3D mapping technology announced earlier this year by Australia’s science agency CSIRO is being used to help map what might be the world’s oldest cave etchings.
During December, CSIRO scientists undertook an exploration on behalf of the Adelaide museum, in which they took the technology known as Zebedee into the delicate Koonalda Cave in South Australia.
The cave was used as a flint mine by Australian Aborigines as far back as 30,000 years ago, the cave includes markings known as “finger flutings”, apparently made by dragging the hand across the soft limestone walls.
Enter Zebedee, a 3D mapping system created by the CSIRO and licensed to UK company GeoSLAM. The handheld system gathers a real-time point cloud of its surroundings without needing systems like GPS as a reference (handy, since GPS doesn’t work underground).
Zebedee consists of a lightweight LiDAR (light detection and ranging) set, along with inertial measurement. And yes, its inventors – Robert Zlot and Mike Bosse of the CSIRO’s Autonomous Systems Lab – say its name was inspired by the character in The Magic Roundabout.
New Scientist describes the expedition to map the caves here - and the purpose of the finger flutings still remains a mystery.
However, with the 3D maps, researchers can at least examine the cave from their desktop, without the six-hour drive to reach the caves. ®
The system uses a 2D LIDAR that can only detect distances in a plane. The spring is to give it a random pattern to ensure it scans in all directions more-or-less evenly. The readings from the LIDAR are then combined with the information from the accelerometer/gyroscope (can't remember which) to produce a 3D map of the environment in which the scan was taken. It's basically a LIDAR-on-a-spring-on-a-stick that you hold while walking around a cave.
Managed to see them demonstrate it when our robotics class went on a field trip to the Autonomous Systems Lab (along with a bunch of other cool stuff) and it was really as simple as walking around while holding it to get a 3D map of an area.
We all know how this will end.
In an adequate, yet slightly disappointing even though we knew we weren't going to get what we were hoping for, trip to a far distant planet, wherein we discover the origin of life and weird inky black stuff that tries to kill us.
They'd be better off leaving the cave etchings to just fade away into nothingness - curiosity didn't kill the cat... but it did kill Harry Dean Stanton when he went looking for it.
Zebedee in a cave?
I always found Zebedee to be a bit dark and evil.
Dougal was my fave!