Preserving Historical Landmarks In VR Should Be A Priority
Ensuring history survives using modern day technology.
Yesterday, the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France suffered a devastating fire that caused significant, lasting damage to the 12 Century building. Although French authorities were able to save the bulk of the structure, including the two rectangular towers, a large portion of the frame was destroyed, along with the entirety of the landmarks iconic spire.
Thankfully, however, the historic French site was recently immortalized in 360-degrees by TARGO, a VR studio specializing in immersive documentaries. Thanks to the efforts made by the company, future generations will have the ability to step through the massive doors of the grand cathedral and stand within its hallowed halls, as if yesterdays fire never took place.
In more recent years, companies like TARGO have begun using immersive technology to digitally capture our greatest landmarks, historical sites, and monuments and preserve them for future generations; a righteous crusade to immortalize the efforts of the human race. It may seem like an impossible task, virtually archiving physical locations while simultaneously capturing the awe-inspiring magic of seeing them in-person; however, recent advances in spatial capture technology, such as photogrammetry and spatial mapping, have resulted in more photo realistic virtual experiences.
As technology continues to progress, the option of visiting virtual renditions of real-world locations will only become more viable, allowing users to lose themselves in true-to-life simulations that are too difficult or down right impossible to visit in real life.
Following the destruction of the Bamiyan statues in Afghanistan back in 2001, Ben Kacyra began digitally capturing historical landmarks for preservation using laser-scanning technology, going on to launch the non-profit company CyArk in 2003. In 2018, the company partnered with Google Arts & Culture to bring their extensive collection of recorded heritage sites to the masses, as well as launch the Open Heritage project, a new initiative dedicated towards the digital preservation of historical sites across the world.
So far the partnership has resulted in the 3D capture of sites such as the 1,000-year-old Temple of Kukulcan in the Mayan city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico, parts of the Roman city of Pompeii, buried by the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D.; and the Native American cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde in southern Colorado.
“With modern technology, we can capture these monuments in fuller detail than ever before, including the colour and texture of surfaces and the geometry captured by laser scanners with millimeter precision in 3D,” Chance Coughenour, program manager of Google Arts & Culture, said in a blogpost.
With photogrammetry and 3D spatial capture on the rise, immersive technology is poised to become the ultimate preservation tool for real-world locations. While many of us currently share the luxury of being able to visit a large variety of historical destinations in-person, future generations may not be so lucky. Whether it be war, major shifts in culture, or Mother Nature itself, it’s clear that no landmark is safe from us or the elements.
Capturing these famous structures and areas in VR ensures they’ll truly survive the test of time. Imagine being able to physically walk the streets of New Orleans pre-Hurricane Katrina, or visit the various floors of the World Trade Center before the 911 attacks.