​CyArk's 3D and VR mapping of ancient monuments is going further than Google Earth

Seagate's partner is creating 3D models of ancient and at-risk cultural sites

When monuments are at risk or incredibly remote, there are many reasons to preserve them digitally.

When monuments are at risk or incredibly remote, there are many reasons to preserve them digitally.

In 2016 I visited my 100th country. With over a hundred countries still to go, I certainly haven't seen everything this world has to offer. But I have been very fortunate to gaze at the pyramids of Giza, Tikal and Copan, to have seen a sunrise change the colours of the Taj Mahal, and bring to life the forest around Macchu Pichu. I have driven through war town cities of Agdam and Sarajevo, and marvelled at the vastness while sailing across the Atlantic ocean.

While I was able to take many photographs and embed the feelings and images surrounding me at the time, I will never be able to truly capture the moment and the details. And thankfully I don't need to since technology is now doing it for us!

Ben Kacyra and his wife Barbara set up CyArk (cyber archives) (cyber archives) in 2003 with the intention to ensure heritage sites are available to future generations while making them uniquely accessible today.

Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore

They detail cultural heritage sites around the world using 3D laser scanners and drones, capturing millions of data points per second. The points are then analysed and generated into a 3D Mesh model of the site. From there the 3D-generated model is coloured using photos taken of the surface of the structure. This creates the virtual reality scene that we can study further for conservation and education.

To date, more than 200 sites around the world have been completed including Pompeii, Babylon, Mt. Rushmore, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Titanic but the aim is to digitally preserve 500 sites by 2020.

Everything from coliseums to rock art, to ancient walls and forts are to be catalogued and analysed for future generations. Some sites are more obscure than others, and many are also very popular tourist destinations, but all are relevant for preservation using 3D laser scanners.

The data can be used by professionals to monitor and manage gradual architectural deterioration and the blueprints can assist with rebuilding or reconstructing when disaster does strike.

Experience history with VR
Experience history with VR

It also broaches another new technology that is making waves: virtual reality. CyArk is using the data taken from the field to create user experiences such as informative flights over and around significant sights, and tours through the insides of buildings; often in places that are remote or in buildings that are no longer on limits to casual tourists like ourselves. Virtual reality is now mainstream and we can experience these phenomenal places without leaving our homes.

So why are you in town?

More than 200TB of data storage needs to be collected, stored and protected systems (CyArk’s storage and curation partner is Seagate).

Scott Lee, director of operations at CyArk told us, "We really lean on our network of partners, because our mission is very ambitious. Companies like Seagate act as free consultants and let us lean on their expertise."

Read more: ​Google Daydream View VR full, in-depth review

Mapping monuments
Mapping monuments

He said that without their data storage specialisation, CyArk’s mission of using new technologies to create a free, 3D online library of the world's cultural heritage sites before they are lost to natural disasters, destroyed by human aggression or ravaged by the passage of time would not be possible.

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