While capturing 3D geometry with a standard digital camera is challenging and takes advanced technology, capturing 3D geometry underwater can be even more difficult. Difficult because of the optical changes and physical demand to operate in subsurface environment while trying to take photos. Over the past few months I have been involved in some of these projects that made use of not only photogrammetry but recently underwater Lidar (yes underwater laser, not mounted on a shark) and handheld sonar generating 3D point clouds which I will talk about later once the special project is revealed publicly.
This post is about photogrammetry being used by the US National Park Service and marine researchers and how technology like Autodesk Recap Photo can convert photographs using mathematical algorithms to textured 3D geometry. ReCap Photo is an Autodesk 360 service designed to create high resolution 3D data from photos to enable users to visualize and share 3D data. One great object of interest to scientist is coral and what is occurring on coral reefs around the world where colonies are dying due to many potential causes.
Despite their crucial role, coral reef research and education are still in their infancy. One major challenge that has plagued coral reef scientists for decades is the inability to accurately measure the surface area of corals, which represents the living portion. The ability to quantitatively track the growth of a coral colony is an extremely basic and essential parameter for understanding the health of a coral reef ecosystem. Current methods are incredibly imprecise and rely on simplistic two-dimensional (2D measurement.
Further, humans rely heavily upon visualization for comprehension, and corals are difficult to see first-hand. Most corals are inaccessible to anyone who does not SCUBA dive, especially children. Until now, the only way to visualize corals has been to view static pictures or non-interactive films. As a result, public understanding and interest of the complexities of coral reefs pales in comparison to other charismatic megafauna such as sharks, whales and dolphins.
This project aims to utilize Autodesk Reality Capture to generate incredibly detailed 3D models of corals for a novel scientific study and produce revolutionary educational tools.
Sylvester (Sly) Lee is a Marine Toxicologist and Science Communicator. He works at the Kalaupapa National Historical Park and is the founder of the non-profit, The Hydrous, which aims to communicate marine science through beautiful and intuitive visualizations. Interactive 3D coral models can be viewed at www.thehydro.us.
Blowing Bubbles in the name of Science and Technology, Dive Dive Dive!
As a technologist at Autodesk and advanced SCUBA diver it will be my absolute pleasure and honor to work with the Park Service on another project over the next few weeks capturing coral in 3D models for study and future studies on the isolated remote Kalaupapa National Historical Park located on the island of Molokai. I will also play the vital roles of not only safety diver, photographer, BBQ cook, comedian, but I am sure I will play the role of tiger shark bait or underwater rodeo clown to keep the other team members safe while capturing photos for creating 3D models. Autodesk's Pete Kelsey will also be a diver, photographer, and modeler on the project.
Who knows, maybe the team can even host a short Google Hangout from the remote project location and answer questions on coral and capturing underwater objects in 3D.
Another amazing example of the US Park Service using Autodesk Recap Photo Pro!
The video below of a 3D model was created by National Park Service Submerged Resources Center A/V Production Specialist / Deputy Chief Brett Seymour using Recap Photo Pro. Brett is one of the world's top professional underwater photography and videographers. It is really quite amazing to see how he operates with all the gear while SCUBA diving as he is a consummate professional and master. Just over a week ago I saw Brett diving with a large and expensive RED digital 4K cinema camera in an underwater housing and two big strobes which made it appear as if Brett was diving with the front of a small expensive car and maintained a fluid dive and controlled buoyancy throughout the dive.
Brett captured this WWII Corsair aircraft crash last week located just off Hawaii's Waikiki Beach in about 100 feet water depth.
Anyone that has attempted to create a 3D model of something on land and ran into challenges can appreciate how well both of these National Park Service professionals have mastered the process to get good results in such a challenging underwater environment.