Google, CyArk to build VR models of world's endangered heritage sites

VRGoogle has joined hands with CyArk, a California-based 3D laser scanning non-profit, to build virtual reality (VR) representations of historical sites around the world that are at risk of destruction due to human conflict or natural disasters, media reports said.

The joint effort -- called the Open Heritage project -- will use CyArk's (short for cyber archive) laser-scanning technology to capture and archive the imperiled archaeological wonders from all over the world, the Verge reported late on Monday.

The archived data could be re-created in VR format, so that it can be preserved and explored online either on a computer, through a mobile device, or while wearing a VR 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 millimeter precision in 3D," Chance Coughenour, a digital archaeologist and programme 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," Coughenour added.

Founded in 2003 to digitally record, archive and share the world's cultural heritage, CyArk has recorded over 200 monuments in all seven continents. 

The company uses the laser-scanning system, as well as high-resolution photography captured by drones and DSLR cameras.

"For many of the sites, we have also developed intricate 3D models that allow viewers to inspect from every angle, using the new Google Poly 3D viewer on Google Arts and Culture," Coughenour said. 

Google and CyArk are also planning to release the source data of the models. 

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, the report said.

Google Arts and Culture, which first went live back in 2011, has over the past seven years, 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," Coughenour noted.

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Source: IANS