Frank Weaver is a documentary filmmaker and native Paraguayan (now working from Florida) who has lived among and documented the culture of Paraguay’s Panambi’y Indians for several years now, logging the traditions and lore of a very old culture threatened by encroaching progress, particularly deforestation and slash-and-burn farming. But when it came time to record and preserve the centuries-old traditions of the local Pai Tavytera Indians of the Amambay hills, Weaver turned to a decidedly modern tool: the much-hacked Microsoft Kinect.
The indigenous people of the Amambay hills treat the surrounding jungle as sacred, and for generations they have decorated their surroundings with rock carvings that are now increasingly disappearing, victim to both natural erosion and the local logging trade. These rock carvings are in danger of disappearing along with the rest of the jungle, so Weaver (inspired by a story written by PopSci’s own Dave Mosher for another publication) turned to the Kinect--whose technology has been leveraged to create everything from invisibility to finger-tracking touchless control interfaces--to create 3-D renders of the endangered art and catalog them digitally.
It’s not quite the same as preserving them in their original form, but it is an inexpensive and readily available way for Weaver and the people of the Amambay hills to ensure this part of their material culture is documented before it is lost, should it come to that. In the meantime, Weaver is launching a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his next documentary, a cultural exploration of the Panambi’y mythology and customs that he hopes will raise awareness of their plight. In the meantime, he and his crew will continue digitizing rock art relics in hopes of preserving them for future generations.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.