Laser Planet at Ibrox

Scottish Ten digital image of Sydney Opera House

How a team of Scottish experts are using high tech to map the world’s most iconic sites.

If you are starting or finishing your Shoogle at Ibrox this week, look out for a striking display on the Subway’s video wall (top of stairs, concourse level).

It might not be the first place you’d expect to see stunning 3D images of the highly distinctive Sydney Opera House. But, created with state of the art laser scanners, they are the result of a highly successful heritage project, Scottish Ten, that’s based just round the corner.

A collaboration between the Glasgow School of Art’s Digital Design Studio, the Scottish Government and Historic Scotland, Scottish Ten will eventually map out all five of Scotland’s World Heritage Sites as well as five international sites.

“We’re actually based at Pacific Quay, so not that far from Ibrox,” says Al Rawlinson, Scottish Ten’s head of data acquisition.

“We make a short film after each international site to show what we’ve done. It explains how the data is collected and what we do with it.”

Scottish Ten uses the latest laser scanning technology to make highly accurate three dimensional computer models.

The scanners fire off lasers which can take measurements with an extremely high level of accuracy – charting every lump and bump in an otherwise seemingly flat surface down to the millimetre.

“The scanners we use can do this tens of thousands of times a second – so you generate a lot of data that is very, very accurate,” says Al. “We do this all over the site and when you join it all together you end up with a very accurate 3D model.”

In Scotland their expertise has already recorded stunning images of Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town, New Lanark, the ancient settlement of Skara Brae in Orkney, the Antonine Wall, and St Kilda.

The international sites completed so far have been Mount Rushmore, Rani ki Vav in India (an ornately carved Royal Step Well that dates from the 11th century), the Eastern Quing tombs in China and the Sydney Opera House.

“Our data was actually used to secure World Heritage status for Rani ki Vav – that was confirmed only this month,” says Al. “It’s great to know our work has been immediately useful.”

As Al explains, the project has five key aims:

  • To digitally preserve important historical sites for the benefit of future generations
  • Share and promote Scottish technical expertise in conservation and digital visualisation
  • Foster international collaboration
  • Provide 3D digital models and data to site staff for education purposes and for better care for the heritage asset.
  • Create digital documentation for future innovative research

“The technology we are using has become the standard for heritage sites around the world,” explains Al. “And it is great that Scottish expertise is being used to create these models. We gift the data we collect to the host countries so they can use it.

“For example, since we first did Skara Brae in 2010, we expect there has been some coastal erosion. By carrying out the measurements again Historic Scotland can determine exactly how much, and put in place any measures they see fit to protect the place.”

The Scottish Ten film of the Sydney Opera House is on show in Ibrox Subway Station until 30 September 2014.

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