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GeoSLAM tech put to test in Deep Time isolation experiment

May 19, 2021  - By 0 Comments
The versatility of the ZEB Horizon device enabled the Deep Time team to map the complex and challenging environment. (Photo: GeoSLAM)

The versatility of the ZEB Horizon device enabled the Deep Time team to map the complex and challenging environment. (Photo: GeoSLAM)

Geospatial 3D mapping specialist GeoSLAM provided the technology to scan one of Europe’s largest caves as a part of the Deep Time isolation study.

For 40 days, 15 participants set up camp in the Lombrives cave in southwestern France with no clocks or sunlight, and zero contact with the outside world. Conducted by the Human Adaptation Institute, the experiment aimed to explore the links between the human brain and time, in order to gain insight into the limits of human adaptability to isolation.

Throughout the mission, the “deeptimers” organized tasks to complete within the cave setting to help structure their days. Their first task was to conduct a recce of the location.

GeoSLAM technology was called upon to conduct a digital scan of the 3-km Lombrives cave — a cave system consisting of both narrow passages and expansive chambers up to 70 meters in height, formed more than 125 million years ago.

The handheld ZEB Horizon is put to the test by a Deep Time participant. (Photo: GeoSLAM)

The handheld ZEB Horizon is put to the test by a Deep Time participant. (Photo: GeoSLAM)

The team used the lightweight ZEB Horizon device, which harnesses GeoSLAM’s unique SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) algorithm, putting to the test the device’s 100-m range capabilities. Its versatility and walk-and-scan method of data collection allowed the team the flexibility to crouch, crawl and scan the depths and narrow canals of the cave, including 90-m deep wells.

Traditional tripod-based systems used for digital mapping rely heavily on GPS to collect accurate data. SLAM technology however, overcomes this limitation by cutting out GPS altogether, enabling scans to be carried out in complex and enclosed spaces, including underground.

A Deep Time participant sets up GeoSLAM’s ZEB Horizon scanner. (Photo: GeoSLAM)

A Deep Time participant sets up GeoSLAM’s ZEB Horizon scanner. (Photo: GeoSLAM)

With low light levels, an ambient temperature of 10 degrees and humidity levels of 100 percent, the physical and psychological impacts the team experienced were documented on camera.

“We are thrilled to have been associated with the Human Adaption Institute on such an exciting and historic project,” said Tomas Blaha, GeoSLAM channel manager for Europe. “The handheld capabilities of the ZEB Horizon device provided easy-to-use technology for the members of the team with no professional surveying experience. The study tested the limits of human endurance in a challenging environment, and the same can be said of the technology to survey the Lombrives cave. Using traditional static and GPS-based scanners would have been impossible for this project, so we are delighted that the ZEB Horizon’s adaptability and ruggedness played its part in an historic piece of research.”

The 15 participants stand outside the Lombrives cave, France. (Photo: GeoSLAM)

The 15 participants stand outside the Lombrives cave, France. (Photo: GeoSLAM)

Tracy Cozzens

About the Author:

Senior Editor Tracy Cozzens joined GPS World magazine in 2006. She also is editor of GPS World’s newsletters and the sister website Geospatial Solutions. She has worked in government, for non-profits, and in corporate communications, editing a variety of publications for audiences ranging from federal government contractors to teachers.

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