Three people looking at a 3D map of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Zebedee technology has been used to map the interior of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Image: CSIRO

Look around the room you’re in now. Imagine trying to accurately map out the details in the room. Now consider trying to map out the entire building. It sounds time consuming, but Zebedee technology can map whole buildings in minutes.

Zebedee is a device developed by CSIRO. It includes a laser scanner and measurement sensor mounted on a handle using a spring. Locations can be mapped by simply holding the Zebedee device and walking through.

The laser light emitted by Zebedee interacts with surfaces, reflecting off walls, ceilings and objects. By measuring the reflected light using a sensor, the relative distances and positions of features can be calculated. A 3D map of the location can be recreated using the data.

Zebedee recently won the Eureka Prize for the Innovative Use of Technology. What really sets Zebedee apart is one of its simplest components: the spring. The laser scanner in Zebedee can only scan in 2D. By mounting the scanner on a spring, the sensor bounces around as the operator walks. These movements mean Zebedee can scan in more directions, allowing a 3D map to be created.

Zebedee was recently used to map the inside of Italy’s Leaning Tower of Pisa for the first time. The cramped interior of the tower made it difficult to map with existing scanners. The Zebedee team was able to complete a full scan and create a map in 20 minutes. The map will be a useful record of the famous building and will help with its preservation.

The device has also been used to map other locations, including caves, mines, forests and the Australian War Memorial. 3D maps are useful, providing accurate records of locations. They allow a site to be analysed remotely at a later time. Later mapping of the same location also allows changes in the site to be detected.

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