San Francisco -- Venturing to explore the world's most famous attractions seems like a far away dream to see them, but Google does not want those who are short of time or strapped for cash to be left out of seeing icons like Stonehenge, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The search engine giant over the weekend announced the launch of a new cultural project called World Wonders that allows users to explore historical landmarks around the globe including the sandy beaches of Australia's Shark Bay or the ruins of the Temple of Hercules in Italy at your fingertips.
The new World Wonders Project is part of the company's famous Street View technology, which now offers virtual tours of 132 historical landmarks sites in 18 countries, ranging from Stonehenge to the archaeological areas of Pompeii and the ancient Kyoto temples. Not only that, man-made sites will be accompanied by natural places as you stroll around the sandy dunes of Australia's Shark Bay or gaze up at the rock domes of Yosemite National Park in California.
Each of the historic landmarks stored away by Google are listed in the Street View gallery, which encompasses tours beyond the new European additions. Also, sites are categorized geographically, including every continent except Africa and Antarctica.
The World Wonders Project allows exploration by location or theme, like archaeological sites, monuments and memorials, or places of worship. Many sites also consists of 3D models and YouTube video accompanying them as well. Apart from this, the virtual tours are similar to Google's Street View Gallery, which features panoramas of places such as the Amazon River, The White House, and Euro 2012 Stadiums. Or simply flick through the homepage photo carousel or drop your mouse on a random spot on the globe to begin your tour.
The Palace of Versailles, as seen in Google's new World Wonders Project. (Credit: Screenshot by CNET)
The World Wonders Project is made possible thanks to Street View technology, which occasionally used pedal power Troika instead of its now familiar camera-topped cars.
In fact, this latest announcement came on Google's Official Blog, where Google outlined its commitment to preserving and sharing culture online. From the blog post:
We hope World Wonders will prove to be a valuable educational resource for students and scholars. A selection of educational packages are available to download for classroom use; you can also share the site content with friends.
The World Wonders Project is part of the Google Cultural Institute, which is committed to developing tools that make human cultural heritage accessible worldwide. Among the famous landmarks incorporated in the project are Versailles in France, Jerusalem in Israel, Historic Route 66 in the United States, the Cinque Terre region of Italy, Cologne Cathedral in Germany, and many more.
The search engine leader has spent plenty of time exploring around the world, capturing famous places for various ventures. Last year, the company shared views of spaces like New York's High Line Park, London's Kensington Gardens, and Tokyo's Koganei Park.
“Street View has already proved a real hit for tourists and avid virtual explorers,” the World Wonders site said. This new project is being marketed as a valuable resource for students and scholars, as well.
Besides, the Cultural Institute is in the process of circulating high resolution digital scans of the Dead Sea Scrolls and has recently published a digital archive for Nelson Mandela. In addition, Google further stated that the project features official information and photography on many of the sites from organizations like Getty Images, Ourplace, UNESCO, and the World Monuments Fund.
Adventurers around the globe are welcome to submit pictures to Google via photo-sharing site Panoramio, which may eventually appear in the World Wonders Project photo gallery. More so, you can enjoy the trailer for the World Wonders Project below, as well as a behind-the-scenes look at how Google captured some of the locations with the use of its Street View tricycles.