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Battle of Gettysburg Gets High-Tech Gigapixel Panorama Treatment

A collaboration of history and technology is allowing people to learn more about a key battle of the Civil War, which took place during the first week of July in 1863 outside of Gettysburg.

The Battle of Gettysburg is featured in the latest issue of GigaPan Magazine, a free online publication put out by the CREATE Lab in the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. The issue features panoramic photographs of battlefields as well as paintings, letters, photographs, and other objects from a museum collection, which can be viewed from a distance and then zoomed in on with remarkable clarity.

The photos are generated with GigaPan technology, which consists of a robotic device that holds a digital camera and lens in place to take hundreds or thousands of images and software that allows the images to be compiled into a single panoramic shot. GigaPan, which stands for "gigapixel panoramas," comes in several models priced from $299 to $895.

The Gettysburg issue allows viewers to survey the Cemetery Hill and Cavalry East battlefields, browse through a gallery in the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA, and visit the restored graves of African-American soldiers in Columbia, PA, among other sites. The collection of panoramas was guest-edited by Laura Tomokiyo, a project scientist in the Robotics Institute.

Tomokiyo, who in her university profile expresses an interest in "explorable imagery," was also the director of the Civil War Trails Project, a collaboration among the National Civil War Museum, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, and Carnegie Mellon University. It was that project that led to the development of the GigaPan technology, which was jointly developed by CREATE Lab and NASA.

The latest panorama collection was inspired, said Tomokiyo, by her memories of a field trip taken as a high school student from North Carolina. "Under the leadership of an exceptional teacher, our class traveled to Gettysburg and marched across the battlefield," she recalled. "I would wish that all young students could have similar experiences and hope that our virtual presentation of the places of importance in the Civil War can provide similar experiences for today's youth."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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