CyArk 500

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The CyArk 500 Challenge aims to digitally capture 500 global heritage structures in 3D, with the help of partners Autodesk, Faro, Leica and others.

Spurred on by the Taliban’s destruction of the 1,600 year old Bamiyan Buddahs in Afghanistan, husband and wife team Ben and Barbara Kacyra set up CyArk to record archeologically important sites.

Using cutting edge technology, CyArk’s plan is to digitally preserve 500 cultural heritage sites within the next five years.

The locations are to be 3D scanned using laser and photometric technology, allowing them to be virtually recreated to millimetre accuracy as a 3D model.

CyArk partnered with the leading brands in scanning hardware and software: Autodesk, Faro, Riegl, Topcon, Leica and Trimble, along with 3D Laser Mapping and a new company called dotproduct. Backup and data specialist IronMountain provides the huge amount of storage required to vault the laser scanned data (estimated at 10 Terabytes). The company’s servers are stored inside a mountain.

By storing data records future degradation of the sites can be accurately repaired, and through using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) software, potential damages from elements such as soil erosion can be pre-empted.

The sites chosen for the CyArk 500 are submitted by the public. CyArk has 28 sites online from the data collected. It also produces educational materials, virtual tourism, and digital renderings.


Using photometric 3D scanning apps and digital photographs from smartphones, the public can help record data and create 3D models.

Autodesk’s software can recognise and position key points on a 3D structure, the tool can then create a 3D model, according to vice-president and group chief technology officer Brian Matthews.

As a result, Mr Matthews has been using as many photographs of the Bamiyan Buddahs as available to piece together a digital model, bringing the inspiration for this mammoth project back from destruction.

Faro Focus3D 330

Last month at the launch event for CyArk 500, sponsor Faro took the opportunity to unveil its latest 3D laser scanner, a long-range version of the Focus3D, the X 330.

Faro revolutionised the scanning market with the Focus3D scanner in 2012. It was small, low-cost and ultra portable (weighing 5kg and would fit as carry-on luggage at airports) as well as having a touch screen for ease of use. The new Focus3D X 330 has almost three times greater range than the previous model being able to scan objects up to 330 metres away, as well as operate in direct sunlight. Accuracy for the device is +/- 2mm with a total range from 0.6m to 330m.

The device has an integrated GPS receiver for positioning and the laser scanner is able to automate the correlation of individual scans in post-processing making it ideal for surveying. The quality of output has been enhanced with a reduction in noise and the Focus3D X 330 utilises a Class 1 “eye safe” laser. Like its shorter-range siblings it is the same small size, touch-screen operation, SD-card memory and an average battery life of 4.5 hours.


There is a scanning revolution underway, with Autodesk entering the market with its Recap Pro product and hardware firms such as Faro reducing the price and increasing the capability of scanning equipment.

One of the other interesting ‘low cost’ scanners on show at the CyArk 500 launch came from start-up dotproduct, which has developed the DPI-7, a sub $5,000 hand-held scanner/tablet combination that can be used to capture objects 60cm to five metres away. The system uses a similar sensor to Microsoft’s Kinect, an Android tablet and a handle. It is similar to using a video camera.

By slowly waving the scanner, the display paints images with shades of green showing how well it has been defined. The deeper the green the more 3D data it has.

In reality the hardware is actually pretty much all off the shelf components. The clever stuff is the Phi.3D software that is stitching the information together in real time. Its creators think that it will be used to generate models for interior design, 3D construction documentation for oil and gas facilities, documenting crime scenes, imaging movies sets, gaming and entertainment applications. The product is deemed pretty hot, as Intel just announced that it had invested a considerable amount into the company.

As new low-cost scanning technologies come up dotproduct will apply its Phi.3D software to those hardware solutions and plans to bring down the cost of digital 3D capture.


CyArk is a noble non-profit that applies technology to try and save the topology and geometry from endangered heritage sites. Regular laser scanning will helps to assess degradation and weathering of sites and in the worst case at least provide some 3D documentation of sites that have been lost.


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