A helicopter-mounted lidar system let archaeologists map an ancient Cambodian city

Lasers, helicopters, hidden jungle cities, and ancient religions — it sounds like the synopsis to a Michael Crichton novel, but believe it or not, these things are actually the key components of some astonishing new archaeological research happening right here in the real world. With the help of an airborne lidar system, scientists recently managed to create a map of a long-lost city hidden beneath the jungle in Cambodia

With the special laser mounted on the underside of a helicopter, archeologists working on the project were able to compose maps revealing the massive scale of religious temples and other buildings belonging to the Khmer Empire, which was dominant in Southeast Asia from 802 AD until the 15th century. These maps were shown off for the first time this week at the Royal Geographic Society in London.

Laser scanning mapRelated: This is what London looks like through a self-driving car’s eyes

Incredibly, the lidar system makes it possible to “look through” obstructing features such as trees and vegetation to map the ground underneath.

“Lidar is a revolutionary tool for archaeological survey on a landscape scale,” Dr. Mitch Hendrickson, Assistant Professor, Department of Archaeology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a key partner in this project, told Digital Trends.

“The real impact of lidar is that it gives a detailed, accurate map of the ground that reveals features not clearly visible due to forest cover, or the archaeological features that leave only slight traces on the ground. It allows us to see the footprints of buildings, settlements and other infrastructure and how they intersect and change. This is the foundation for understanding community organization in the past.”

In short, lidar hits the “warp speed” button on painstaking archaeological work. A few hours of coverage with the groundbreaking tech achieves what literally decades of on-the-ground surveys would have been able to — and with far more accuracy to boot.

While it doesn’t carry out the actual excavation work itself, this is one piece of kit archaeologists are unlikely to want to leave home without from now on.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

How to use Samsung’s Bixby assistant for all of your smartphone tasks

Samsung Bixby is a powerful tool, but not the most intuitive one we've encountered. Here's how to set up and use every feature of Samsung's digital assistant, as well as what to expect in the future.
Smart Home

Ward off porch pirates with the best outdoor security cameras

Worried about porch pirates stealing your packages, or intruders entering your home? Always be in the know about who or what is on your property by installing one of these outdoor security cameras.
Emerging Tech

Say cheese: InSight lander posts a selfie from the surface of Mars

NASA's InSight mission to Mars has commemorated its arrival by posting a selfie. The selfie is a composite of 11 different images which were taken by one of its instruments, the Instrument Deployment Camera.
Wearables

Our favorite fitness trackers make it fun to keep moving

Looking for your first fitness tracker, or an upgrade to the one you're already wearing? There are plenty of the wrist-worn gadgets available. Here are our picks for the best fitness trackers available right now.
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.