Google Arts & Culture is teaming up with digital preservation firm CyArk to digitize the world’s endangered heritage sites and cultural touchstones. Every day, natural disasters, normal processes like wind erosion, and human meddling all chip away at and destroy a large number of precious heritage sites and cultural works around the world. CyArk wants to help with that by capturing and preserving these sites in digital form, and now Google is on board to help by giving CyArk’s vast collection a place for the public to easily access it in a variety of forms. Users can enjoy 3D and VR tours of 25 locations across 18 countries, with both computer-based and smartphone-based VR solutions on board.
CyArk was founded by Ben Kacyra, the inventor of the world’s first 3D laser scanner, after seeing ancient monuments destroyed by war and terrorism. He brought his intention to bear for the sake of preserving world heritage. The company has gone on to preserve a large number of iconic sites the world over, including some that have since been damaged or destroyed. One example of this is Bagan, Myanmar. Here, an earthquake in 2016 damaged many of the city’s heritage sites, but not before CyArk came along to 3D scan one of the larger temples and even map out a photo-generated texture for the entire model. This means that anybody with a VR headset can walk around the temple, take in its design, and drink in its vast scale.
Google Arts & Culture has gained a reputation as one of the world’s premier sources for digital representations of famous artworks and landmarks. The venture has even created new and derivative works that allow people to experience some pieces to a deeper degree, such as a 3D exhibit based on famous paintings by Bruegel the Elder. This partnership sees Google Arts & Culture poised to become the definitive source of archaeological and cultural history site tours for the everyman. In a global economy that makes travel forbidding while the technology needed to immerse oneself in a virtual world gets ever cheaper, such easy availability of digital tours is arguably one of the best possible ways to preserve history, culture, and ancient architecture.