The Zebedee, created by Australia's national space agency, is a 3-D scanner, but it's not quite like any 3-D scanner we've ever seen before. But that might work in its favor: one person holding the Zebedee was able to accurately 3-D map the entire Leaning Tower of Pisa in only 20 minutes!
The Zebedee is a laser scanner, not an infrared scanner like the Kinect or most of the other 3-D scanners we come across. The laser scanner sits on a spring, bouncing comically and uncontrollably back and forth, pointing all over the place as it does. The heavy lifting of the Zebedee is done in software, as all that conflicting laser data is converted to a 3-D map.
It's actually a subtly genius idea; most 3-D scanners are fixed, requiring human intervention to make sure they point at all possible angles. But the Zebedee, through its sproinging, manages to capture everything all by itself. Sure, lots of elements will be scanned multiple times--but that's not necessarily a bad thing, as long as the software is capable of sorting out the redundant data in a reasonable time-frame, which it sounds like this data is.
For a look at how this oddball works, check out the video above, or read more over at the Australian space agency's site.
I am sure a great many PoPSCi readers are thinking this at the same time, I'm typing it, "Attaché this to a drone for remote scouting in 3D!" And to keep the weight down for processing this data, the data could just be beam back to the drone remote site to be processed there.
This reminds me of the science fiction red ball electronic mapping scouting devices (Pups) from the movie Prometheus will come true very soon!
"one person holding the Zebedee was able to accurately 3-D map the entire Leaning Tower of Pisa in only 20 minutes!" ... is incorrect. From the video they note that it took them a little under an hour ... and from the link they say "Within 20 minutes we were able to use Zebedee to complete an entire scan of the building’s interior."
There is a difference between 'the entire' and 'the entire interior'.