San Diego, Calif., Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 — Cultural heritage around the globe is continually subject to a multitude of threats, from malicious acts during wartime to neglect, overexposure and natural disasters. Researchers at the University of California San Diego Qualcomm Institute – along with conservationists and researchers at other universities – increasingly turn to advanced digital tools and techniques to better document, preserve and share the world’s historic places.

Dominique Rissolo and Michael Hess assess the day’s results during a 3D documentation project in Yucatan, Mexico (photo courtesy of Binar Media).

This approach was discussed in detail at the 26th International Comité Internationale de la Photogrammétrie Architecturale (CIPA) Symposium, hosted by Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. The symposium, titled Digital Workflows for Heritage Conservation, brought together archaeologists, engineers, architects and conservation specialists from universities, government agencies and private foundations around the world. They discussed best practices for digitizing and restoring heritage structures and monuments while exploring advances in virtual and augmented reality to engage more diverse audiences.

In attendance at the conference – along with delegates from more than 25 countries – were Assistant Research Scientist Dominique Rissolo and Structural Engineering Ph.D. student Michael Hess of the QI Cultural Heritage Engineering Initiative (CHEI) at UC San Diego. Rissolo and Hess were part of a research team that included CHEI Director Falko Kuester as well as Vid Petrovic, Dominique Meyer, and Eric Lo, who are students and staff at QI and the Jacobs School of Engineering.

Rissolo presented on digital preservation of ancient Maya cave architecture along the Caribbean coast of Mexico. With the rapid expansion of tourism development on the “Riviera Maya,” many cave sites – and unique altars and shrines that they have long concealed – are exposed to new threats.

Dominique Rissolo acquires dozens of images to create a photogrammetric model of an Maya cave shrine (photo by C. Rojas).

Hess demonstrated new interactive software tools for classifying and analyzing construction materials via 3D point clouds. Novel capabilities adapted by Hess are unique to the point-based visual analytics software developed by Petrovic and are transforming the way specialists analyze data from heritage structures. The paperpresented by Hess was among the top-10 selected to appear in the journal Virtual Archaeology Review.

Other featured projects at the symposium ranged from monitoring rock-fall hazards at Petra in Jordan to digitally preserving war-ravaged mosques in Aleppo, Syria and earthquake-rattled structures in Katmandu, Nepal. Also discussed were novel fabrication techniques used to replace the lost or disappearing architectural elements of Canada’s treasured Parliament buildings.

Says Rissolo: “It was exciting to interface with such a diverse group – there were representatives from UNESCO, Google, the US National Park Service, CyArk, and many other entities that share a common passion for documenting and safeguarding our world cultural heritage. We were also impressed by the extraordinarily talented staff of the Carleton Immersive Media Studio and we look forward to building stronger ties with a broad group of domain experts, innovators and stake holders in pursuit of preserving world heritage.”

Rissolo and Hess were recently invited by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University to give a lecture on their work in November. Through CHEI and their CIPA partners, Rissolo and Hess say they hope to contribute to a stronger and more vibrant digital heritage community.

3D mesh model of an at-risk Maya cave shrine.

San Diego, July 27, 2017 — In a long feature article and companion video, CNN Travel has posted the feature story on “Charted Waters”. In it, writer Alexander Rosen and his co-producer Joseph Coleman follow Dr. Philippe Rouja, Bermuda’s Custodian of Historic Wrecks, offshore and underwater to visit shipwreck sites in Bermuda’s waters. The report notes that “Rouja documents the current state of Bermuda’s wrecks using photography to create 3-D maps and models in a partnership with the University of California San Diego for a project called the Bermuda 100 Challenge.”

The feature article and video are now available on the CNN Travel interactive website at The article also links to the Bermuda 100 website.

CNN goes on to say that the computer models “provide a snapshot-in-time and comparing them tells a story about the evolution of both Bermuda’s wrecks and the environment.”

The article explains that the Bermuda 100 Challenge also allows anyone on the Internet to take a virtual dive and experience Bermuda’s cultural and environmental heritage through the web portal created by UC San Diego’s Qualcomm Institute. “Aside from its scientific importance, there’s a connectivity importance, that people can connect to a period of history, a shipwreck, the ocean,” Rouja tells CNN. “And that’s what shipwrecks do. They are actually a great segue for people into the marine environment that might otherwise not get there. So, when you’re out looking at a shipwreck, because you care about the history or you think shipwrecks are cool, suddenly you’re also learning about the rock fish that lives on that shipwreck or the particular spawning aggregation that’s next door. Giving shipwrecks that work to do is actually a big part of the work I do.”

Following the 6.4 magnitude earthquake that struck southern Taiwan, CHEI’s Rapid Response Team was activated and is en-route to collect perishable data, needed to understand the observed damage patterns and better prepare for future extreme events. Prof. Tara Hutchinson and Eric Lo have CHEI’s deep toolbox at their disposal, including terrestrial and airborne sensor systems.

The Fall 2015 issue of American Archaeology (Vol. 19, No. 3), has a feature story titled “Here Come The Drones,” exploring the possibilities, challenges and overall impact of drones on the field of archaeology. The article is featuring our work and visually highlights results from our 2014 Napa Valley post-earthquake reconnaissance research with focus on historic landmarks.

Professor Kuester presented an invited talk at Cinegrid 2015, titled “From Immersive Frames to 3D Scenes,” covering next generation 2D and 3D imaging and modeling techniques for the rapid creation of 3D scenes for use in immersive environments. The talk explored the potential of ultra-resolution, spherical, stereo image and video acquisition enabled by our CAVEcam, CAVEcam-X, Camlot and SENSEI imaging systems, for the creation of highly realistic and accurate environments. Environments suitable for data exploration and analysis supportung our heritage engineering research, while also creating content and unique opportunities for the coming tidal wave of personal Virtual Reality systems, including head mounted displays (HMDs) such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear VR, among others.

The California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology at UC San Diego (Calit2), now known as the Qualcomm Institute (QI), is celebrating its 15th anniversary.  Chancellor Khosla and dignitaries including former Governor Gray Davis, Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs, Qualcomm Co-Founder and former Chairman Irvine Jacobs and UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering Dean Pisano, united for a reception and showcase of QI innovation.  At the event, Davis and Calit2 Director Larry Smarr discussed the past and future of the Qualcomm Institute, with particular emphasis on the groundbreaking potential of the Pacific Research Platform (PRP) – a new National Science Foundation grant that uses fiber-optic networks to connect researchers at universities throughout the West Coast, enabling them to share “big data” at an unprecedented speed. One of the proof-of-principle, cyber-infrastructure sites for PRP that is already fully operational is CHEI’s WAVElab, hosting the Wide-Angle Virtual Environment (WAVE), a one-of-a-kind testbed for BIG-VR.

During the event, Professor Kuester presented a lightning talk about CISA3’s transformative impact and CHEI’s disruptive and synergistic work across Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, as well as Music (STEAM). Following the vision of CHEI’s integrative, cultural heritage engineering methodology, the talk outlines a closed-loop, data acquisition, curation, analytics and dissemination approach, highlighting what is possible when you are an innovator and producer of technology, rather than just a consumer. As always though, our students and trainees were the true stars of this presentation.

The visual documentation of seafloor habitats is playing an increasing important role in understanding habitats like coral reefs. Our new collaboration with the Sandin Lab at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography is focusing on developing a pipeline to automate the data collection and annotation of large swaths of coral reefs. Our invited paper at this years International Conference on Underwater Networks and Systemsdiscusses the issues related to collecting this data, the challenges with processing the data, and the potential to automate the process through computer vision and robotic systems.

The Triton Magazine covered our robobtics (drones) research and development in a recent article titled Life Among the Drones. The article highlights CHEI and Engineers for Exploration (E4E) alumni Radley Angelo’s experiences in developing some of our early drone platforms and covers recent work at the Maya archaeological site El Zotz in Guatemala. Current CHEI and E4E undergraduate Dominique Meyer also provides his thoughts about the direction of drone technology.

UCSD’s Strategic Vision identifies four research focus themes that serve as enablers and drivers for a student-centered, research-focused, service-oriented public university of the future. These focus themes include (1) Understanding and Protecting the Planet, (2) Enriching Human Life and Society, (3) Exploring the Basis of Human Knowledge, Learning and Creativity and (4) Understanding Cultures and Addressing Disparities in Society.

To support these research priorities UCSD created the Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program (FISP).  This program is aimed at building the interdisciplinary expertise necessary to address society’s greatest challenges and forge new intellectual enterprises, which increasingly rely on the ability to work across diverse disciplines, either individually or as members of multidisciplinary teams. In the words of UCSD’s Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla, “The Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program builds the interdisciplinary expertise we will need to address national and global challenges.”

With great pride, we announce that six of our CHEI emerging innovators were selected to join the inaugural student cohort of the Frontiers of Innovation Scholars Program. While being the lead on their respective core research projects, our FISP scholars closely collaborate with each other, bringing talent from Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Structural Engineering and Physics into the mix. Please join us in congratulating:

Sebastian C Afshari
“HeliDrone: An Autonomous Helicopter Platfrom for Remote Imaging”

Miguel Antonino Cruz de Villa
“ParaDrone: An Autonomous Paraglider Platform for Remote Imaging”

Ian Dickerson
“3D Printable Structures”

Dominique Meyer
“Identifying Maya Pyramids with Aerial LIDAR”

Dimitri Schreiber
“CAVEcam-X: A Robotic Spherical, Stereo Imaging Platform”

Sabrina Trinh
“2D & 3D Modeling of Historic Sites from Image Data”

UCSD composer offers new work in ArtPower Filmatic Festival program

By James Chute | 8:27 p.m. May 2, 2015 | Updated, 1:27 p.m. | May 7, 2015, San Diego Union Tribune

Imagine if you could hear a painting. Not in your mind, but physically hear the sounds a painting might make. Composer Lei Liang is working on that, with a team of collaborators at UC San Diego.

Liang, who was one of the three finalists for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music (for “Xiaoxiang,” a concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra), is composer-in-residence at UC San Diego’s CALIT2 (California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology).

Saturday, as part of ArtPower’s Filmatic Festival at UC San Diego, Liang reprised “Hearing Landscapes,” a cutting-edge, multimedia presentation that he premiered at the Qualcomm Institute in April.

The project also involves visual explorer Falko Kuester, principal collaborator and audio software developer Zachary Seldess, cultural heritage engineer Samantha Stout, and software and system developers Greg Surges, Chris McFarland and Eric Hamdan. It aims to take the ink brush paintings of 20th century Chinese artist Huang Binhong, extract detailed information from the paintings through advanced scanning techniques, and translate that “big data” into music.

+ Read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune