Illegible words on church headstones could be readable once again, thanks to a scan technology developed at Carnegie Mellon University. The new technology creates high-resolution, 3D scans of tombstones to reveal the carved patterns in the stone. A computer matches the patterns to a database of signature carvings, which reveals the words.
In recent weeks, a research team has been testing the new technique at a 200-year-old cemetery near the university. The pastor at Old St Luke's Church hopes to identify all the names on the cemetery's tombstones.
The technology has been built on top of existing 3D reconstruction techniques. But the team at Carnegie Mellon is focusing on surface signatures. "We have designed special filters of 3D data that can detect curvature or linear features on a surface," explains Dr. Yang Cai, director of the Ambient Intelligence Lab at Carnegie Mellon Cylab.
You can read more at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/7024672.stm. I found the "before-and-after" pictures on that web site to be very impressive.