How does Autodesk fit into this blog post, read further. The nature magazine is no ordinary magazine, it is more of a science periodical of peer reviewed papers and information on major discoveries in science. My good friend Dr. Louise Leakey and her 3 generations of family as paleoanthropologist’s, the Leakey’s have a new paper published in the August 2012 issue of nature released today that identifies a new species of our distant relatives that could change the way we look at evolution of we humans (homo sapiens) and those that came before us. The find was located in the East Africa region I recently visited with Dr. Louise Leakey, Deming Yang of the National Museums of Kenya, and my colleague at Autodesk Gonzalo Martinez in Northern Kenya’s harsh and hot desert environment near Lake Turkana.
Meave G. Leakey, Fred Spoor, M. Christopher Dean, Craig S. Feibel, Susan C. Antón, Christopher Kiarie & Louise N. Leakey + et al.
Three newly discovered hominin fossils—a well-preserved face of a late juvenile, a nearly complete mandible and a mandibular fragment—aged between 1.78 and 1.95 million years old, confirm the presence of two contemporary species of early Homo, in addition to H. erectus, in the early Pleistocene of eastern Africa.”
Discoveries like this do not happen every day and takes years and years of research manually searching the desert.
And below is the future Dr. Louise Leakey in 1972 as a baby accompanying her father Dr. Richard Leakey, and mother Dr. Meave Leakey.
Even Starbucks coffee recognizes the lifelong dedication of the Leakey family.
When we were there in the remote Northern Kenya in May 2012 on working on both sides of Lake Turkana, we used a modified remote controlled 8 bladed Octo-Copter to test if that would automate and speed up the process of locating the fossils that are really just small pieces that fit in a puzzle of our ancestors. I can only hope to go back someday to work, explore, and assist the amazing local people located in the region.
Last week I had the pleasure of accompanying Dr. Louise Leakey of the Turkana Basin Institute and a National Geographic Explorer in Residence at the San Francisco Autodesk headquarters for meetings as well as her presenting to the Singularity University located on NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Singularity University is funded and ran by several sponsors including Autodesk, with a goal each of each PhD and PhD candidates to affect the lives of a billion people.
Title of the Singularity University Talk
“Using Technology to Accelerate Exploring our Past: An Evening with Paleoanthropologist Dr. Louise Leakey
Anthropology & Paleontology have long been a laborious task but now technology may hold the key to faster collection, documentation, and sharing the artifacts around the world in 3D via the Internet so all can share in the discoveries of the past and our origins as a species. From the days of riding camels to remote regions and manually looking for small fragments to now using aerial capture of locations of interest, laser and photogrammetry technology to capture the specimens it is all changing and allowing us to accelerate the process before the clues to our past are destroyed by modern development and domestic herd animals moving into the region, oil exploration, or time and erosion, and lost forever.”
Autodesk has captured in 3D several of the specimens using the free Autodesk 123D Catch and a regular digital camera and also laser scanning using a FARO edge laser scanning arm and then printing them in 3D as well as placing them in a virtual museum at http://www.africanfossils.org.
Autodesk isn't only focused on sales of software and services, but also philanthropic projects. I like to say while Autodesk may be a corporation, it is really just a group of 7200 awesome individual people that really care about the world we live in, and making is a better place for everyone.
PS: Watch the program “Bones of Turkana” online and follow the Leakey's quest to unravel the mysteries of human evolution.