Carnegie Mellon University

Digital Graveyard

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Software Uncovers Local History

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Indiana Jones, step aside. Carnegie Mellon University's Yang Cai is developing new technology that could revolutionize the way archeologists work. Cai, director of the Ambient Intelligence Lab at Carnegie Mellon's CyLab, is developing new software to help speed up archeological discoveries.

Using the new software, Cai is scanning 200-year-old gravestones at Old St. Luke's Church in Carnegie, Pennsylvania, to help its pastor identify all the names on the cemetery's tombstones.

"We are very excited and pleased that Professor Cai and his research team are helping us reclaim our past by identifying some of the 20 graves at our cemetery," said Rev. Richard Davis, director of Old St. Luke's Church.

The Episcopalian church, established in 1765 as a stockade church for British soldiers, is operated as a special events building for weddings, book reviews and special holiday services, according to Davis.

During the past two weeks, Cai's research team trekked through the church's three-acre cemetery, scanning unreadable gravestones and then storing the images on laptops.

"We are exploring new 3-D reconstruction technology to decipher the gravestone names," said Cai. "Essentially, we reconstruct the tombstone surfaces by applying filtering and detection algorithms for revealing the words on the archaic surfaces."

In addition to discovering who is buried in the church cemetery, Cai is developing a digital cemetery for the church.

"Our goal is to take the guesswork out of archeology and make this reconstruction technology available for a variety of other industry sectors, such as the security and medical fields," said Cai.

Related Links: BBC News  |  CyLab  |  Ambient Intelligence Lab