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March 10, 2021

CSIRO delivers Zebedee: a fast, accurate spatial mapping tool.

Zebedee is a handheld, three-dimensional mapping device that has a vast array of applications, and has already been being picked up by the Queensland police for crime scene investigations.

Zebedee is able to generate 3D recreations of spatial environments in the time it takes to walk through them. The portable laser scanner is one of the latest whiz-bang inventions from the scientists at CSIRO.

zebedee with queensland police
Above: CSIRO’s Dr Jonathan Roberts, Sergeant Kylie Blumson and Inspector Adrian Freeman. Photo: CSIRO.

It works by emitting laser beams from a rotating spring that continuously scans the environment, converting 2D measurements into a 3D field of view.

It can collect over 40,000 range measurements in just one second, creating a 3D map of a cave in around 20 minutes, according to Jonathan Roberts, CSIRO’s Autonomous Systems Research Program Leader.

zebedee mapping
Above: A Zebedee 3D map of Aviation Australia’s Boeing 727 in Brisbane. Photo: CSIRO and Aviation Australia.

Zebedee is simple to use and creates 3D laser maps continuously, quickly, reliably, and cost-effectively. These are clear advantages over traditional methods that involve cumbersome measurements, expensive laser scanners or external references such as GPS (Global Positioning System).

Zebedee came out of the CSIRO’s work in robotics. A mobile robot needs to understand the local environment, and while GPS helps, without a map it is almost impossible for a robot to move itself around. Zebedee gives robots the ability to create maps of their local area, Roberts said.

“We put the eyes of a robot into the hands of a person and discovered the huge range of applications for such a system,” he said. “We have seen Zebedee used to map caves, to record significant cultural heritage sites, to map forests and we have even mapped the interior of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.”

The Queensland Police have been among the first to recognise the value of the Zebedee and are using it to help investigate crime scenes, as well as vehicle crash sites.

Zebedee mapping device
Above: CSIRO’s Zebedee handheld laser scanner for 3D mapping applications. Photo: CSIRO.

Precise police sweeps of cramped spaces, rugged terrain or dense bushland can take a lot of time and personnel. Zebedee lets the police easily access these hard to reach places and map confined spaces where it may be difficult to set up bulky camera equipment and tripods. It also means less disturbance of the crime scene.

Using data collected by the scanner, police investigators can quickly recreate the scene on their computer in 3D, and view it from any angle they want. They can then locate and tag evidence to particular locations with pinpoint accuracy.

Criminals be warned – the Queensland Robocops are on the case.

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