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Google Showcases Virtual 3D Models of Breathtaking Endangered World Wonders

Jonathan Vanian

just debuted a new online web project in which people can see three-dimensional digital images of the world’s wonders, such as ancient Corinth's ruined temples in Greece and the towering spires of the Ayutthaya Kingdom in Thailand.

The search giant and digital preservation nonprofit CyArk debuted Monday the Open Heritage project in which people can access some of CyArk's 3D renderings of world wonders.

CyArk has been creating digital representations of historical monuments using laser scanning technology to capture accurate models of places like the Angkor Wat temple of Cambodia and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.

The goal is to create high-quality imagery of historic relics that risk being destroyed over time due to a number of calamities like fierce storms, natural disasters, or warfare.

Chance Coughenour, a Google arts and culture program manager, said in a corporate blog post that Google helped convert CyArk's imagery of historical wonders into a more consumer-friendly version that people can access using their personal computers, smartphones, or Google Daydream-compatible virtual reality headsets.

People will need the Google Chrome browser to scan the 25 different wonders currently available on the website if they lack a compatible VR headset. When accessing the project via a web browser, people can view the ancient temples and other relics from multiple angles, and zoom in so they can see the site's innards like they are walking through them.

"With modern technology, we can capture these monuments in fuller detail than ever before, including the color and texture of surfaces and the geometry captured by laser scanners with millimeter precision in 3D," Coughenour wrote. "These detailed scans can also be used to identify areas of damage and assist restoration efforts."

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Outside researchers and academics can also apply to download CyArk's source historical wonder data to be used for their own research, Coughenour wrote while citing Google's cloud computing service as a way to help the process of obtaining the data.

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