Google has launched a new site that offers virtual tours using Street View technology, the ability to build private collections and ultra-high resolution images.
The site, simply called ‘Art Project’, currently includes 17 museums, offering 360 degree images of selected rooms. So far 385 rooms are navigable, with more to be added soon.
Each Museum involved also chose one artwork to be photographed using “gigapixel” photo capturing technology, resulting in an image on the computer containing seven billion pixels and providing detail not visible to the naked eye.
As well as 17 paintings selected for “gigapixel” treatment, the museums made available images of 1,000 more works, allowing people to study them in detail using a custom built zoom viewer.
Users can create their own collections, add comments and share their experiences, opening up educational opportunities.
Among the galleries featured on the site are the Uffizi in Florence, the Palace of Versailles in France, Museum Kampa in Prague, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The site was the brainchild of Amit Sood, a Google employee who started Art Project from scratch during time his employer freed up for personal initiatives.
Nelson Mattos, VP Engineering at Google, said the Art Project site would allow children from Latin America, India and Africa, who were unlikely to see the originals, to come close to the experience on the internet.
“This really represents a major step forward in the way people are going to interact with these beautiful treasures of art around the world,” he said, adding that Google planned to expand the site over the coming years.
Mattos and art curators at the launch said they were confident that no matter how advanced the technology, the new site would never replace visiting the museums.
“We obviously don’t believe this technology is going to prevent people from coming to the museums,” he added. “We hope that the opposite will happen.”