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'Science never seen before' is focus of first scientific conference on gigapixel imaging

PITTSBURGHTwo hundred scientists, educators and students will come together at the Fine Conference on Gigapixel Imaging for Science Nov. 11-13 at Carnegie Mellon University to explore how science research and education can best use new technologies for creating and analyzing large digital images containing billions of pixels.

Alan Eustace, Google Inc. senior vice president for engineering, Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center, and Mark Bauman, executive vice president of National Geographic Television, will present keynote addresses at the conference, the first to focus on scientific uses of gigapixel imaging.

"Gigapixel imaging technologies offer the unprecedented ability to capture panoramas at extremely high resolution in a single data file that can be explored interactively with a computer," said Illah Nourbakhsh, CMU associate professor of robotics and general co-chair of the conference. "But as more scientists have exercised their creativity with these technologies, we've come to appreciate that not all panoramas need to record large expanses; they also can cover microscopic terrain and sometimes even bridge time."

Vertebrate paleontologists, for instance, will report at the conference on their use of gigapixel imaging to provide detailed documentation not only of the quarries where fossils were discovered but of the fossils themselves. A biologist in Ontario will talk about how he used the GigaPan camera system, a technology developed by Carnegie Mellon and NASA, to monitor a year in the life of a woodlot within an expanding urban area. And entomologists will discuss how they used GigaPan to watch 3,200 cells in a beehive breeding frame over a period of 12 days as they searched for clues to Colony Collapse Disorder.

The conference is sponsored by the Fine Foundation of Pittsburgh, which for several years has sponsored workshops to teach scientists from a range of disciplines how to use gigapixel imaging. Today, more than 100 Fine Fellows in such fields as geology, Egyptology, oceanography, plant biology and climatology are using the technology in their research and educational activities.

"We're still early in the evolution of this technology, but we hope that this conference will help us identify those areas where gigapixel imaging holds the most potential, whether as a research tool, an educational device or as a means of engaging the public at large," said Randy Sargent, a scientist at Carnegie Mellon and the NASA Ames Research Center who is a general co-chair of the Fine Conference.

For information on the conference program and registration, visit the conference website at In addition to the Fine Foundation, support for the conference has been provided by Intel Corp.

Along with the scientific program, the conference will feature a juried gallery show at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in which eight of the giant images will be exhibited as prints measuring 4 feet high and up to 23 feet wide. The gallery prints will be unveiled at a conference event Nov. 11, but will be available for viewing by museum patrons through the end of the year.

Among the technologies for creating gigapixel images is GigaPan, a combination of a robotic camera mount and a software package that was developed by Nourbakhsh's CREATE Lab and the NASA Ames Intelligent Robotics Group, with support from Google. The system can take hundreds of photos of a given scene and then electronically stitch the photos into a seamless panorama. Users share these images at the GigaPan website, Google Earth features a GigaPan layer.


Contact: Byron Spice
Carnegie Mellon University

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