Monday, 30th October 2017

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Walk into Taj, at home - ASI-Google set to offer virtual tours of monuments

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  • Published 3.10.13

New Delhi, Oct. 2: If you can’t go to Taj Mahal, Taj Mahal will come to you, virtually.

The Archaeological Survey of India is signing a memorandum of understanding with Google tomorrow that will allow the Internet services company to host panoramic images of 100 Indian monuments, including the Taj and the Red Fort.

The tagline for the project is: “Taking heritage online.” The idea is to take the monument as close as possible to people who cannot visit it.

Google will take panoramic 360-degree images of the monuments, which will be hosted on Google Earth, Google Maps and also on Google Cultural Institute. The cultural institute is a new initiative in which Google partners museums and cultural institutions to host paintings, artwork and monuments online.

A user will get a “street view” of the monuments.

“We are hoping that this will also increase traffic at our monuments. It is possible that the online presence of monuments can ignite people’s curiosity enough to propel them to visit the sites,” ASI director-general Pravin Srivastava said.

Museums across the world, from the Louvre in Paris to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, rely on virtual tours.

Taj Mahal continues to be the most visited monument in India, with at least 15,000 visitors every day. The highest number of visitors in a single day was 55,000, recorded on December 29, 2009. In 2011, it received 46 lakh Indian visitors and 6 lakh foreign visitors.

The virtual tour aims to increase the foreign inflow to popular sites such as the Taj but, more so, to put the less-visited monuments on the travellers’ itinerary. Khajuraho, for example, got only 97,000 foreign visitors in 2011.

The ASI now earns barely Rs 90 crore annually from its 116 ticketed monuments.

In the first phase, 24 World Heritage Sites will be taken up for the online project. All 100 sites are expected to be covered within six months. Google is not charging anything for the project.

While Google will take its own photographs, the ASI will also provide it with high resolution photographs that will be integrated into Site View to allow users to see them in greater detail. For the Google Cultural Institute, ASI will provide text to go with the 3D images. Architectural floor plans of the monuments will be converted into digital models to help users navigate the site.