Heritage captured in 3D

It was while watching the Taliban blow up the 1500-year-old Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan on television in 2001 that Ben Kacyra began to think of a way to digitally preserve the world's heritage sites.

A pioneer of laser-mapping and creator of the world's first three-dimensional laser-scanning system, he set up non-profit CyArk to produce 3D images that give detailed views of more than two dozen heritage sites. Among them is the temple city of Bagan in Myanmar (right) where 3D models are proving useful in restoration work after it was damaged by an earthquake.

Now CyArk has teamed up with Google Arts & Culture, Google's non-profit arts archiving organisation in a project called Open Heritage. '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 millimetre precision in 3D,' explains Chance Coughenour, a 'digital archaeologist' and program manager at Google Arts & Culture.

With working agreements across hundreds of museums and galleries worldwide, including the British Museum and the Met, Google Arts & Culture has more than 2000 'Museum Views' created by Google street-mapping technology but CyArk, is taking them one step further.

Google Arts and Culture is headed by Suhair Khan whose main office is in London, while technical developments happen in the Google Cultural Institute in Paris, known as 'The Lab'. Khan says that it has no plans to monetise programs or work with commercial galleries.

Roger Williams





Roger Williams