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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

3D Pyramid Scheme

For a while, it seemed the revolution in Egypt would end his mission before it had begun.

Thomas A. DeFanti, a research scientist and expert in data visualization at UC San Diego, had been planning for months to capture spectacular 3D surround images of Egypt's temples at Luxor.

It would be a proof-of-concept expedition to see if the 3D CAVEcam—two Lumix GF1 cameras carefully calibrated to take simultaneous right and left images—would be functional in the super bright, hot and dusty conditions of the Nile River Valley. It would also be a way to bring the splendors of one of the primary world heritage sites back to his state-of-the-art visualization facility at UCSD's California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2).

DeFanti made plans to travel to Luxor with Greg Wickham and Adel Saad, two researchers at the world-class visualization laboratory that DeFanti had previously helped establish at Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Following a whirlwind weekend that involved death-defying taxicab rides, negotiating with armed guards to photograph the pyramids at Giza and, eventually, securing permission to photograph Luxor from Egypt's minister of state for antiquities, DeFanti and his team succeeded in capturing a dozen surround-stereo images of several sites at Luxor.

"Only three of these CAVEcams currently exist in the world," notes DeFanti. "I basically wanted to prove that any photographic team could successfully use the CAVEcam in the field—and we did that, even in the midst of heat, fast cab rides and a transitional government."

—Tiffany Fox