Hitachi Systems and JEPICO partnered up to capture and document the insides of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt.
In 2017, a research team formed by Nagoya University and other institutions announced the discovery of an unknown giant void inside the Great Pyramid of Giza located in Egypt.
The government of Egypt designated the Higashi Nippon International University for "The Great Pyramid Project" launched in April 2018. Sakuji Yoshimura, President of Higashi Nippon International University and project leader, recalls: “The Egyptian Minister of Antiquities called, and wanted to know if this announcement could be verified scientifically.
Therefore, we started a scientific verification process where the inside of the pyramid was scanned with cameras and then the data converted to 3D models.”.
JEPICO, with its high-performance 100-million pixel camera, and Hitachi Systems, which has advanced technical capabilities and extensive experience in 3D modeling with images using Pix4Dmapper, joined this project as partners.
The key to accurately modeling the interior of the Great Pyramid, where lighting conditions are challenging, was the project members’ know-how in capturing data, as well as the technical expertise in utilizing various features of Pix4Dmapper photogrammetry software.
Even for the dark and narrow King’s Chamber inside the Great Pyramid, the JEPICO and Hitachi Systems team succeeded in generating an accurate 3D model that provides a faithful reproduction of the real colors and shapes.
Using the right tools for the project
Now that remote investigation is enabled by the accurate 3D reconstructions, the team has high hopes for new archeological discoveries, such as the ability to distinguish materials by their image color.
Yoshimura comments, "I was simply astounded at how, instead of using CGI (computer generated imagery) for reproduction or similar methods, real images were used for the modeling, using the colors of the actual objects.
Clear and sharp images and videos like these of the King's Chamber have never been seen before and will be extremely useful in future pyramid studies."
Special thanks to the members of Hitachi Systems and to ImageONE, our premier reseller in Japan, for their help in preparing this article.
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The resulting scan showed a curious pattern - a hollow that seems to wind the walls up the inside of the pyramid.
And it is possible to get even more evidence, says Mr Houdin.
Cracking the ancient monument open not being an option, his team decided to measure the reaction of the pyramid to exterior factors - such as heat.
To do that, they got in touch with specialists in infrared imagery from the University Laval in Canada who have decided to set up special cameras around the pyramid.
"In Egypt, air temperatures vary greatly between day and night - and rocks in the pyramid react accordingly," explains Mr Houdin.
"If the pyramid is a solid structure, then according to our computer simulations, in the summer at noon it will be hotter at the top as there's less mass, and cooler at the bottom, where the cold ground helps to cool it from below.
"But if there's an internal ramp, it will be the other way around - the pyramid will be cooler at the top."
Setting up a few cameras may seem simple enough, but for this next step to succeed, the joint international venture must be okayed by the Egyptian authorities - who have so far been reluctant to give any kind of positive response.
Besides the infrared proof, one other explorer could also help reveal what is hidden in pharaoh Khufu's eternal resting place.
Meet Djedi - a tiny robot that has been exploring the pyramid for the past two years.
Its name, although reminiscent of the Star Wars warriors, belongs to an ancient Egyptian magician whom Khufu consulted when building the pyramid.
The project is a separate one from Jean-Pierre Houdin's construction analysis, but has also been developed with help of Dassault Systemes - and in collaboration with an international team of researchers.
Djedi's mission is to continue the work of its predecessors.
After the pyramid's main chambers were discovered, researchers were puzzled by one interesting fact.
They found two straight narrow shafts 20cm by 20 cm that connected the King's Chamber with the outside world which were thought to have been used for ventilation.
There are two similar shafts that go from the Queen's Chamber, but never reach the walls, mysteriously stopping seemingly nowhere.
In 2002, a robot crawled to the stone in the end of the shaft and boldly drilled a hole in it, transmitting live images so the entire world could witness the moment of unveiling.
A second door, unseen for more than 4,000 years, blocked the way - and Djedi now has to drill a hole in that too.
"The Great Pyramid is a truly unique and wonderful structure - the shafts and "doors" do not exist in any other ancient Egyptian building," says the project leader Shaun Whitehead.
"Finding out why they are there will give us a greater insight into the techniques and motivation of an amazing civilisation from 4,500 years ago."
The robot crawls forward as a mechanical inchworm, armed with an endoscopic "snake camera" that can look into difficult to reach spaces.
It is also equipped with a drill, hopefully long enough to reach and pierce the second door.
And it has already sent back some exciting images.
In May 2011, Djedi found what looked like ancient graffiti in-between the two doors.
As these two separate, but interrelated projects progress, we may be on the very edge of uncovering some our past's greatest secrets.