2013 ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology

Scanning round about like magic.

Map a mine, cave, building or forest just by walking through it with Zebedee in your hand. This spring-mounted hand-held laser scanner can make three-dimensional images of spaces previously impossible to map. 

The scanner was developed by CSIRO scientist Dr Elliot Duff and his colleagues, who call themselves The Zebedee Team, in honour of the spring-loaded host of the popular children’s TV program, The Magic Roundabout .

For their creative solution, Dr Duff and his colleagues have won the 2013 Australian Museum ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology.

Their device is able to survey enclosed spaces where GPS cannot reach, such as inside caves, mines, factories and public buildings, or beneath forest canopies.

“Mobile mapping is a technology in great demand, but difficult to perform indoors,” the Director of the Australian Museum, Frank Howarth said. “The Zebedee Team’s unique solution is to take those challenges and turn them into opportunities.”

“Their quick and easy scanning is a revolution for bio-physical measurement of cultural heritage sites and tracking of environmental changes—no other technology comes close,” he said.

The Zebedee Team—which includes Dr Mike Bosse, Dr Robert Zlot, Paul Flick, Dr Peter Kambouris and Dr Gautam Tendulkar—used a simple spring to take advantage of vibrations that would otherwise distort mapping data. The bouncing spring gives their baton-mounted scanner a greater field of view and allows it to create a 3D map of an entire building in less than an hour.

The system has already been used to map: the Jenolan and Koonalda cave systems; Questacon, the Australian War Memorial, and the World Forum in The Hague; Fort Lytton, Peel Island and a WW1 tank; crime scenes, mines, factories, forests and more.

The two other finalists for the prize were chosen for their development of a microscope-in-a-needle, and maintenance robots.

Winthrop Professors David Sampson and Christobel Saunders, together with Research Associate Professor Robert McLaughlin, all from the University of Western Australia, used the hypodermic needle as inspiration for an injectable scanner, which uses light echoes to create images to guide breast cancer surgeons.

The UTS-RMS Bridge Maintenance Robot Project Team—which includes Professor Dikai Liu, Professor Gamini Dissanayake and Dr Gavin Paul of the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS), and Palitha Manamperi, Philip Brooks and Waruna Kaluarachchi of NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS)—have developed an autonomous robotic system for maintaining steel infrastructure like the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes reward excellence in the fields of research and innovation, leadership and commercialisation, science journalism and communication, and school science. This year the 17 sponsored prizes include awards for agriculture, defence and infectious diseases.

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Kea Lambert , Project Officer, Eureka Prizes
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