What if we told you technology could preserve history? That drones and machine learning can help reverse thousands of years of decay. Sounds interesting, right? That’s exactly what we thought when the team at Intel brought us on to help tell the story of their work on the Great Wall of China.
THE ART OF RESTORING THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA
Intel partnered with the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation to assess damage in the Jiankou section of the Great Wall. This area of the wall traverses steep mountains and rugged terrain, making it dangerous and costly to survey the destruction. The team at Intel is applying Drone Technology, 3D Mapping, and Artificial Intelligence to this problem and getting incredible results.
Existing Wall Condition
As part of the documentary that Intel put together, we were asked to help visualize what the drones are capturing and how the AI is processing that information for a more efficient assessment of the wall.
Our first step was to understand the tech through discussions with the Intel team prior to their expedition to China. From there, we visualized several concepts to explore different ways of representing the drone surveying the damage and processing the imagery.
We explored very technical and detailed designs and organic forms to align with the natural landscape of the region. In the end, we selected our Point Cloud concept as the best visual translation of how Intel’s technology is mapping and processing the collected data.
BRINGING TECHNOLOGY TO LIFE
The Intel team returned from China with a ton of amazing footage that captured the Intel drone, the landscape, and the Great Wall. Our team got to work on telling the story of three key shots in sequence: Drone Vision, AI Analysis, and 3D Reconstruction.
Intel’s Falcon 8+ drone is a revolutionary piece of technology that captures highly detailed images as it flies over terrain. These images and the associated data collected can be reconstructed into a 3D model of the Great Wall, which gives engineers on the ground a comprehensive perspective of the repairs needed.
Through our futuristic vision, we were able to depict the blanket of points being read and captured by the Falcon 8+ drone as it surveyed the wall. While the wall is the feature here, it was important to show that the drone is also capturing data about the trees, ground, and mountain terrain around the wall.
In addition to a bird’s-eye view of the Great Wall, the Falcon Drone was also used to capture profiles of the brickwork so that Intel’s AI algorithm can search for structural issues along the wall. In order to convey the complexity of the AI analysis, our team created a layered approach to the visuals.
At its base, there is a dot matrix that shows a uniform collection of data points as the drone moves along. On top of that grid, abnormalities or negative spaces are represented by “pins” extruded out to form the cracks that the AI is detecting. Finally, the AI is capturing a brick count as it scans the image that appear as blocks forming a “digital wall” and a tally of Bricks Counted, Missing Bricks Detected, and Weaknesses are all identified.
The payoff to all of the hard work that the Intel engineers have undertaken with this project comes in the final shot where we see a 3D reconstruction of the Great Wall. This cinematic shot follows along the wall where we sections that have been destroyed by tree growth and other areas that have crumbled over time.
Intel wanted to leave the viewer with an aspirational view of how technology and history can intertwine to preserve the past while envisioning solutions to the China Foundation of how repairs can be made in the future. Our team designed a “digital scaffold” that frames the Great Wall’s towers as the brickwork elements fill in the eroded sections of the wall to restore it to its original state. We resolve to an extreme wide shot, that highlight the graphic overlays cascading down the mountainside along the Great Wall.
This was an incredibly insightful project that allowed the Perception team to showcase our Science Fiction Thinking and become immersed in Intel’s visionary technology while blending the physical and the digital, a space we love to play in. We enjoyed this incredible collaboration with Intel and look forward to more in the future with their incredible technologies.
To learn more about Intel’s Great Wall of China preservation project, visit their website and check out the final documentary clips.