Google and CyArk have partnered up to help preserve historical sites around the world that are at risk or irreversible damage or total erasure due to human conflict and natural disasters.
The project is called Open Heritage and it will use CyArk's laser-scanning technology to capture all the relevant data at a historical site needed to re-create it virtually, so it can be preserved and explored online either on a computer, through a mobile device or while wearing a virtual reality headset.
"With modern technology, we can capture these monuments in fuller detail than ever before, including the colour and texture of surfaces alongside the geometry captured by the laser scanners with millimetre precision in 3D," Chance Coughenour, a digital archaeologist and program manager with the Google Arts and Culture division, said in a press release. "These detailed scans can also be used to identify areas of damage and assist restoration efforts."
Google Arts & Culture, is exploring the interactive media like the VR tours Open Heritage is planning on doing, and educating people. CyArk's mission is to capture historical monuments and sites before they befall a similar type of tragedy. The company does so by using more advanced versions of the original laser-scanning system Ben Kacyra helped pioneer at Cyra Technologies, as well as a high-resolution photography captured by drones and DSLR cameras.
One of the sites that will be seen on Open Heritage is the Ananda Ok Kyaung temple in Bagan, which suffered damage during an earthquake in 2016. CyArk managed to laser map the site before the disaster happened, and now an interactive 3D tour through the temple serves as an experience alongside Google with Open Heritage. Alongside the temple are 24 other locations from 18 countries around the world. The sites include the Al Azem Palace in Damascus, Syria and the ruins of the Mayan city of Chichen Itza in Mexico.
"For many of the sites, we also developed intricate 3D models that allow you to inspect from every angle, using the new Google Poly 3D viewer on Google Arts & Culture," writes Coughenour. "Over the past seven years, we’ve partnered with 1,500 museums from over 70 countries to bring their collections online and put more of the world’s culture at your fingertips. This project marks a new chapter for Google Arts & Culture, as it is the first time we’re putting 3D heritage sites on the platform."
The Open Heritage models will be available online and on the Google Arts and Culture mobile apps for iOS and Android. Those mobile apps will also support the VR tours through Google’s Daydream platform.