Google Partners With CyArk to 3D Scan the World’s Historical Sites, Provide Open Access to Data


Google has partnered with CyArk, the non-profit studio behind VR app MasterWorks: Journey Through History (2018), to expand CyArk’s mission to 3D laser-scan the world’s historical sites and provide open access to the data. Called the Open Heritage Project, Google and CyArk aim to preserve the historical sites digitally for future generations in case disaster strikes

Google has published CyArk’s 3D scans on the Google Arts & Culture mobile app and on the Open Heritage Project website, giving it a place where users can freely explore and learn about some of the most endangered and off-limits historical sites on the planet. According to a report by The Verge, the Open Heritage Project will also provide VR tours through Google’s Daydream platform.

The studio has created 3D models spanning history including Ancient Corinth to the Brandenburg Gate, although the project is mostly focusing on ‘at risk’ sites. Sites such as the Ananda Ok Kyaung temple, in Bagan, Myanmar remain closed to visitors due to the damage from a 2016 earthquake. You can now virtually step inside and discover its famous wall paintings for yourself.

Google and CyArk are making the source data of the models available to anyone interested. You can apply to download the data, although you can’t use the models to produce anything for commercial use.

CyArk does this by using a laser-scanning Light Detection and Ranging device (LIDAR) and photo imagery using professional-level DSLRs and imagery captured via drones. Combining these two fundamental techniques, the company can make highly accurate recreations of scenes like the ones seen above. You can check out a number of CyArks scans in VR through the MasterWorks app for Oculus Rift and Gear VR.

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CyArk founder Ben Kacyra was inspired to preserve the world’s heritage sites digitally when the Taliban destroyed a number of 1,500 year-old Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan in 2001. Kacyra helped create of the world’s first portable 3D laser scanning system, and quickly realized the potential of the technology to preserve these sites for time immemorial.

The non-profit lays claim to “the largest and most detailed 3D digital archive of endangered wonders of the world,” something CyArks says will provide lasting record of monuments at risk of disappearing.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • JJ

    Simply Revolutionary. Sharing this type of data will lead to a whole new future for virtual reality and real reality with the experiences and education it can provide.

  • dogtato

    Kind of unfortunate it can’t be used for anything commercial. Sure, we’d all just use it to run around historical sites shooting each other, but… it would be cool.