University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Sandstone Pointcloud Smartphone Footfall: using TLS data to engage visitors with hidden cultural heritage
David Strange-Walker, Julia E Clarke

Last modified: 2012-01-02


The English Heritage-funded Nottingham Caves Survey has over the last two years recorded nearly a hundred of the 539 known man-made sandstone caves beneath the city of Nottingham, UK. The caves, some of which date back to Anglo-Saxon times, have been used for a huge range of purposes from 20th-century air-raid shelters, through 19th-century stables, breweries and houses, to medieval factories and chapels.


The project was designed to produce a number of outcomes, combining traditional text-based archaeological recording and photography with modern metric survey. Using a phase-based terrestrial laser scanner coupled with HDR photography, the team creates 3D pointcloud models which can be animated, rendered to video and stills, and uploaded to and our YouTube site. At the same time this data and related documentary material is recorded in the project’s GIS layer, which is designed to complement the city’s Urban Archaeological Database.


The benefits of high-accuracy laser scanning for cultural heritage recording are by now almost taken as read, but it has been the visualisation elements of the project that have proved most effective and informative. While Nottingham’s underground heritage has traditionally been difficult to present coherently, the project’s photorealistic point cloud models have been avidly consumed and broadly shared by a variety of audiences across the globe.


A major goal of the project has always been to re-engage visitors to and citizens of Nottingham with the heritage on the ground – to use the point cloud data to help people understand and experience the hidden heritage around them. This paper will discuss how the Nottingham Caves Survey has explored various smartphone technologies including pointcloud rendering and full AR, but has currently settled on Cuttlefish’s Empedia platform as a low-cost, user-friendly method of providing rich, informative tours of the city’s caves.


Nottingham Caves; caves; laser scanning; terrestrial lidar; smartphone apps; visualisation; democratisation of data