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Google Created a Gigapixel ‘Art Camera’ to Preserve Iconic Paintings

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No brush stroke, no accidental blotch of paint, no hidden nuance of a great painting by van Gogh or Monet can hide from the ultra-high resolution Google Art Camera.

This robotic gigapixel beast was created by the Google Cultural Institute, and it makes digitizing some of the most iconic works of art in the world effortless—it once took a full day to scan a 1 meter by 1 meter painting… now it takes 30 minutes. The camera is equipped with a laser and a sonar for focusing purposes, and once placed in front of a work of art, it slowly captures the painting detail-by-detail, stitching the final gigapixel image together automatically.

Thanks to the Art Camera, the Google Cultural Institute has managed to digitized over 1,000 new paintings in the last year. It took them 5 years to do the first 200.

Here’s a quick intro to this impressive machine:

The kind of detail the Art Camera captures is breathtaking, but it’s the amount of resolution great works of art demand.

“So much of the beauty and power of art lives in the details,” explains Google. “You can only fully appreciate the genius of artists like Monet or Van Gogh when you stand so close to a masterpiece that your nose almost touches it.”

And now, thanks to the Art Camera, you can do that without getting kicked out of the museum by security. Take a look at this GIF showing the sheer detail the Art Camera was able to capture in Signac’s “The Port of Rotterdam“:

As Google puts it:

Zooming into these images is the closest thing to walking up to the real thing with a magnifying glass.

According to Google’s blog post, the company has created “a fleet” of these machines and are now sending them “from museum to museum around the world” for free. You can already experience the first 1,000 gigapixel images captured by the Art Camera—including works by Pissarro, Signac, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and Monet—by clicking here.

(via The Verge)


Image credits: GIF courtesy of Google Cultural Institute/Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

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