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USF Researchers Create 3-D "Virtual Campus"

Imagine entering USF’s Tampa campus, walking around the 15-hundred acres, touring the various buildings, like the Marshall Student Center or the Library - and doing it all from the comfort of your own home, whether you’re in Temple Terrace or in Tokyo!

Researchers at the USF Alliance for Integrated Spatial Technologies (AIST) are hoping to make such a ‘virtual campus’ a reality and they’re using three-dimensional laser imaging to do so. This week's University Beat looks at the work, which isn't limited to simply mapping the university campus.


Working not just with USF students, but high school students in a summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program, they capture 3-D images of the grounds, as well as the interiors and exteriors of buildings.

Those images are then combined with high-resolution photos and other information to create a detailed virtual map that can be used for a variety of purposes. Campus police or maintenance crews can look at the interior of a building in 3-D as opposed to a flat diagram on a piece of paper, and potential students can tour the campus online.

AIST researchers have also traveled to a number of sites around the world, capturing highly detailed 3-D images of what co-Director Lori Collins calls “imperiled world heritage” - historical sites facing damage from either natural factors like climate and age, or man-made reasons, like war and vandalism.

“We work with a lot of agencies and a lot of people that are interested in how we can protect and preserve the world around us in ways that, in case we do lose something, we can always either recreate it or continue to understand it and share it,” said Collins. “Some people spend a whole lifetime mapping archeological sites and we can do that in a really rapid and a really accurate representative way, we can bring that pyramid back to a classroom here at USF.”

You can see a collection of AIST's videos at their YouTube page, and pictures from their field work at their Flickr page

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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