Stepping foot on Gettysburg's hard and haunted ground is — for many — a humbling experience. Technology being created by Carnegie Mellon will allow people from all over the world to explore American Civil War battlefields from their desktop.
Through the Global Connection Project, users will be able to visit historic sites with a new technology called Gigapan — short for gigapixel panoramas. The technology enables a digital camera to take dozens — even hundreds — of photos of a scene that can be electronically stitched together to create a panoramic computer image that users can examine in great detail.
"The battlefield is such an enormous space that even people who have visited it numerous times keep finding new things," said Carnegie Mellon's Laura Tomokiyo, a Language Technologies Institute alumna and a scientist with the Global Connection Project. The Project is a joint initiative of Carnegie Mellon, NASA, Google and National Geographic.
Tomokiyo calls the potential for exploring these battlefields with Gigapan "amazing." For example, someone viewing a Gigapan image of the Gettysburg battlefield could zoom in on monuments and read the text on them. Similarly, users could zoom in to read individual headstones of a historic cemetery.
"We are going to change the way people browse for destination experiences," said Carnegie Mellon's Illah Nourbakhsh, an associate professor of robotics who is co-director of the Global Connection Project with project scientist Randy Sargent of Carnegie Mellon West. "Gigapan is a brand-new technology that will open the Civil War trails to electronic exploration, and Pennsylvania will be the first state to capitalize on it."