Ockham’s Laser: The View at 905nm – A Dialog

Paul TiceHistoric Preservation

To My Dearest Collective Human Consciousness,

Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards. -Aldous Huxley

Through our intention to create dialog around the subject of 3D technologies, some interesting feedback has come our way. One of the ongoing themes we’ve encountered is, “Where are we going with this technology and please, if you’d be so kind, demonstrate its relevance to our collective human direction.” In this series entitled, “Ockham’s (L)aser” we will have the opportunity to explore the latest movements in our 3D tech world and the buzz around those developments. As a homage to Ockham, this exploration will be an attempt to understand clearly and concisely the need that this technology attempts to solve in our world. Toward the end of this series, we’ll look to the future and consider other uses these developments may bring to our “technological toolshed.”


AnnMarie Lambert wrote:
…Why does this (historical preservation) passion exists within the way it does? I know this. When I look into a hundred plus old mirror I think, ‘how many others have gone before me. Who were they? What were they like and what was their passion…their life?’ I think it’s a matter of my own sense of self and validation; That if I exist today, the past; all those who are gone; they mattered, as I do right at this moment…
Nice to hear from you and I appreciate your passion for historical preservation and the union of new technology in that effort. It is a fascinating field, to be sure. I sort of think about it as “Indiana Jones meet Star Wars”. While I look nothing like Harrison Ford, I sure do enjoy the process of heading out to the field into some remote area using extremely expensive and precision tech equipment to capture a moment in time of some forgotten place. It makes life an adventure:)

I learned these past few years in the industry that opportunities are broad and one can really create the life they want with the right combination of skills and enthusiasm.
ToPa 3D~

Jim Fitzgerald wrote:
“I am intrigued by your work. I am a conservator of natural stone. I can see a great benefit from your work, particularly in large building restoration projects…

I completely agree, this sort of data is excellent for large buildings. It is also very useful for historical petroglyph preservation as well. Typically, preservationists would do some version of a rubbing transfer. With scan data, we can create a photo-realistic 3D model of such monuments, which can be quite compelling for research.
ToPa 3D~

Aliza Leventhal wrote:
“I am particularly interested in long term preservation practices and plans for 3d design technology.”
Hello Aliza,
Thank you for your question, and a good one at that. I have been having this very same conversation with preservationists over the past few years and with the robust movement of international organizations such as CyArk, World Monuments Fund, Scottish Ten, and others, the use of laser scanning, aerial LiDAR, and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) on heritage sites is becoming more readily accepted as a means in which to evaluate a site.

Noah’s Ark – Reality Capture on Mt. Ararat

I have also had conversations with persons in State Historic Preservation Offices as well as archive folks at the National Register in DC. 3D technology has not been fully adopted in these government agencies in full force yet due to the data size primarily. They have not allocated funds for storage and the personnel to manage that data’s legacy over time (file formats will change and data will need to be updated).

The good news is that these entities are well aware of the technology, its benefits and challenges, and are adopting it one project at a time. These projects usually have a great deal of publicity because of the effort involved as well as the learning curve.

Our ToPa 3D team has been documenting historical sites in both Oregon and Arizona with laser scanning and panoramic photography. We have created a growing archive of this data that will be eventually shared with the public as open-source.

As a parting thought and to your point, (by no means an end to this dialog), the long-term preservation practices and plans for 3D technology can be found through standardization of the data. Documenting history in 3D is absolutely here to stay. Now, it is a logistics issue. The E57 laser scan file format created under ASTM standards is now a standard. RAW and other such formats for imaging, while quite large as a data type, are very comprehensive and will allow future generations to glean as much information as possible from our present-day documentation methods. The current work we are involved with deals with the decisions on exactly what data to keep and what data will not serve our collective future. That is another conversation – so in the meantime, we simply capture all of it, purchase subscriptions to UDP file transfer services, and will parse it out as decisions are made for our historic legacy.

ToPa 3D~

-Frank Lloyd Wright’s Gordon House, Silverton, Oregon
Photographs by ToPa 3D, Inc., historical information courtesy: The Gordon House Conservancy, PO Box 1207, Silverton, Oregon 97381. Frank Lloyd Wright® Gordon House 2012. Used by permission.