Google has partnered with 3D laser scanning nonprofit CyArk to help preserve historical sites around the world that are at risk of irreversible damage or total erasure due to human conflict and natural disasters. The joint effort, called the Open Heritage project, 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 color and texture of surfaces alongside the geometry captured by the laser scanners with millimeter 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, which first went live back in 2011, is the company’s platform for helping preserve and make accessible art from around the world. The division started with a focus on partnering with museums to bring art works online alongside Street View-style walk-throughs of famous museums. It has since expanded its focus to many different types of art and culture, as well as interactive media like VR tours and other educational tools.