University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Revealing hidden realities in archaeology through laser scanner technologies. A critical analysis.
Mercedes Farjas, Jose Julio Zancajo, Teresa Mostaza, Juan Gregorio Rejas

Last modified: 2012-01-02


Our experience with laser scanner systems began in 2003, when the Leica Company put some of their new devices at our disposal and gave us the opportunity to include them in our 3D modelling work. As we indicated in the press cutting this new equipment was able to model practically continuous surfaces without the need to discretise the data capture and ruled out subjectivity in choosing the singular points to represent the model.         

As researchers in the field of 3D modelling, we believe it is now time to pause and take stock of the system of automatic processes in which we now find ourselves working with this technology. Perhaps we should think about recovering the power to take decisions, to look back to the time of traditional survey methods and in this light to analyse the tools that technological advances have put into our hands. Again and again we find mention made in the conclusions of studies carried out with laser scanners that in order to surpass the present limits we need more powerful computers, faster information processing, more highly automated tasks, the intervention of the operator must be bypassed, etc. Our question is: do we really mean this, or are we putting these words into the mouths of the computers? Is this not what computers want, or would request if they could speak for themselves? Have computers already not practically taken over the data acquisition and information treatment processes? What role do we play in all of this? We have been reduced to merely obeying the orders given to us by the different programs; we labour at boring tasks and produce strange results that do not seem to be consistent with the day-to-day work of a scientist.            

We consider that now is the time to think again about our real needs and objectives and for each researcher to adapt both processes and results to the context of his/her individual work. Now is the time to escape from the tyranny of 3D technology and to adopt a critical approach to laser scanner systems. We are, so to speak, engineers and the new technologies are our raw materials, but we are slowly but surely turning ourselves into mere robots. 3D laser scanner technology has practically taken over the field and by itself directs entire projects, leaving us to carry out its orders from a pre-programmed protocol.     

In this paper we provide examples of applications from a critical viewpoint in order to give ourselves the opportunity to question our achievements in both technical aspects and results.

We propose the existence of a hidden reality whose depiction perhaps may not need the capture of millions of points, together with an internal reflection on the methodology based both on its present situation and its past history.   


Laser scanner; 3D modelling; data acquisition; point clouds; mapping; cartography; critical approach