How a high-tech scanner could make archeology a lot easier, and more open

By nature, archaeology is a very old-school type of science. You dig in dirt, very slowly, and try to unearth long-lost treasures. But the next step is about to get a much-needed upgrade.

The British Museum has partnered with a few other organizations to develop a new software tool that should make it easier to digitize archaeological findings so those historical goodies can be made available for wider study. The software works a bit different than usual digital archival tools in that it uses “predictive scanning” to work ahead and try to fill in the gaps, which makes the entire process run faster and smoother. In the past, it could take a trained professional hours just to input a shard from an artifact. They’re hoping this new approach will make that process a whole lot faster.

The program, called Presious, has been in development for three years in Europe, at a cost of approximately $3.9 million. The best part: Once the program is finally complete, the museum plans to give it away for free, so archaeologists around the globe can (hopefully) use it.

The idea of Presious is that, as more data/fragments/etc. from an artifact are added to the database, the software should be smart enough to figure out what it is, and help put the pieces back together (and fill in any missing pieces with what they would probably look like). The benefits are numerous: A digital scan can be shared, zoomed, artificially aged and tweaked for research — all with literally no wear and tear on the actual artifact.

Who knows? Give it a few years, and we might have full databases available at the touch of a button, for anyone with an interest in history to browse the fully scanned history of entire civilizations.

Now we just need some holographic projectors to fully take advantage of those 3D scans …


(Via Popular Science)

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