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July 1, 2003

New way to walk Northrop Mall

SUMMER 2003: Professor Baoquan Chen (Computer Science and Engineering and Digital Technology Center) and his research group — with the help of a boom-truck from the University's grounds crew — are using a state-of-the-art 3D laser scanner to digitize Northrop Mall on the University of Minnesota campus. The goal of the project is to scan real world environments and then develop new graphics algorithms and software to provide an interactive virtual navigation of the scanned environments on a computer. This software, when used in conjunction with virtual reality tools being developed as part of the University's Digital Design Consortium, will allow users to walk and conduct architectural design in a digitized site, such as the virtual Northrop Mall.

The scanner used is capable of scanning large environments (up to 200m), offers high accuracy (1cm precision within a range of 200m), large field of view (90° x 360°), and high speed (18,000 pts/sec). Chen's group has been applying this technique for other applications, such as archaeological, historic, and strategic site digitization. The group has done scanning of Mount Rushmore, South Dakota, and the Mill City Ruins of Minneapolis.

The Digital Design Consortium was established from a gift from Ted and Linda Johnson and is also supported by the Digital Technology Center.

boom truck

Boom truck raises its bucket with scanner and a student in front of Kolthoff Hall as Prof. Chen watches.


Closeup of 3D scanner


Scanning in front of Smith Hall (chemistry)


The boom is fully extended a high-level scan of Northrop Mall