Google Maps has no sentimental link to the past. With each new satellite update, the foreclosed addresses and demolished buildings disappear forever in a vacuum.

But when it comes to the ancient historical and cultural monuments of the world, Google has partnered with a non-profit organization to create a permanent, three-dimensional archive of Earth's greatest monuments.

Google Arts & Culture today announced an association with CyArk, a decade-old organization dedicated to creating laser-scan recreations of historically relevant sites.

The joint project Open Heritage has RV-enabled animations of places such as the temple Ananda Ok Kyaung in Myanmar, which they explored fortuitously before a 2016 earthquake caused their fall and masonry to collapse.

Natural disasters are not the only danger to the artifacts of the world. CyArk founder Ben Kacyra started the organization in 2001 after seeing the Taliban destroy 1,500-year-old and 180-foot Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, and promised to preserve the art and sites vulnerable to terrorism .

Years later, Kacyra's team scanned the Royal Kasubi Tombs in Uganda; After an arsonist burned the tombs, CyArk was asked to send three-dimensional scans of the tombs so they could be reconstructed.

"Our heritage is much more than our collective memory, it is our collective treasure," said Kacyra. "We owe it to our children, grandchildren and generations that we will never know to keep it safe and transmit it."

You can download the Google Arts & Culture app at iOS and Android to discover more of these 3D heritage sites, and Google Daydream users You can see the sites in virtual reality. And anyone can request Open Source 3D data source downloads for study or restoration.

Preserving ancient history with laser and drones

To capture these monuments in all their glory, CyArk uses a hodgepodge of technology, which includes lidar (a laser mapping system used by cars without a driver ). photogrammetry (a technique for joining photos from different angles in a 3D model) and drones equipped with DSLR cameras.

A 3D point cloud from the Al Azem Palace in Syria

(Image: © Open Heritage)

"With modern technology , we can capture these monuments in more detail than ever, including the color and texture of the surfaces and the geometry captured by laser scanners with millimeter precision in 3D, "said Chance Coughenour, Program Manager at Google Arts & Culture.

With the greater diffusion and publicity that its association with Google contributes, CyArk and the Open Heritage Project will be able to preserve and help to reconstruct many more vulnerable points of reference in the future.

Via Fast Company

  • A great site for historical preservation? The moon!

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