Why Intel Brought AI and Drones to the Great Wall of China


Intel AI and drones save the Great Wall of China

Intel is contributing its intellectual capital—its innovative thinking and brightest minds and technology—to saving one of the greatest human-made creations on Earth, The Great Wall of China. The monument, which represents thousands of years of culture, is in danger of crumbling. Many parts of the wall, like the Jiankou section, risk erosion and destruction.

The Jiankou wall spans mountain peaks and treacherous cliffs, making the preservation of this monument no easy task. To combat this nearly impossible challenge, Intel has partnered with the China Foundation for Cultural Heritage Conservation to launch an innovative new approach to its restoration, using artificial intelligence and drones (the project was announced in April).

Intel’s team set out on a mission to preserve one of the most iconic landmarks on earth, embarking on an expedition as they reimagined preservation work on this monument with new tools: Intel Drones and Al.

“By talking about these products and combining the drone tech with AI, and having that solution built on the Xeon processor, I can tell a very technical story to people who would be interested in that, Then creatively, it’s also a super-appealing human interest story that can elevate their perception of Intel outside of the PC,” Intel’s VP, global creative director Teresa Herd told Fast Company about the project, which bridges technology with cultural heritage, a brand-building exercise with an act of corporate responsibility.

Intel / Great Wall of China restoration with AI and drones

“We look at it both ways,” Herd added. “Does it have the technical chops that will make it interesting to people who may be interested in using this stuff? But also, is anyone else going to watch it?”

The project, both in its scope and its storytelling, helps humanize AI and show the power of partnerships with social and cultural impact. “There’s often this fear that the machines are coming,” she added. “I think it’s our responsibility to say, ‘Yes, they’re coming, but here’s the good they can do.’ This is the potential for this technology and maybe how it can help your business.”

Intel created a 3D model by using its Falcon 8+ drone’s flight performance, reliability, and high-resolution image capture to map the Great Wall to aid in its restoration. The drones are capturing thousands of detailed and highly accurate images of the wall, which will be stitched together to create a 3D model, delivering the foundation its first truly data-driven framework in order to strategize and prioritize the wall’s restoration plan.

An artificial intelligence algorithm detects structural flaws on the Jiankou wall, and even calculates the exact amount of bricks needed to repair it. The entire workflow is powered by an Intel Xeon processor, from photogrammetry stitching to training, inferencing, and visualizing the 3D model. This enables the foundation to restore the wall in a way that’s faster, more accurate, and more efficient. It also showcases the power of when “Intel inside” goes outside to form bold new partnerships.


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