Google Art Project Brings Street View into Galleries

Google Feb. 1 revealed the Art Project featuring 1,000 works of art scanned online using Google Street View, Picasa and App Engine.

Google Feb. 1 said it has begun taking its Street View Google Maps feature into art galleries to bring images of art works to consumers' computers via the Web.

One of the search engine's famed 20 percent projects, Google's Art Project aims to bring more than 1,000 works of art to people who might not otherwise get to visit major art galleries all over the world.

Google Art Project head Amit Sood said in a blog post a small group of Googlers passionate about art put their heads together and used Google's Street View, Picasa and App Engine technology to take pictures of art works and assemble them on this special Website.

The result is the 1,000 images of art that reside in 17 notable art museums. These images include works residing in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and MoMA in New York, Palace of Versailles in France, Tate Britain & The National Gallery in London, Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence and Museum Campa in Prague.

The participating museums picked one artwork to be photographed in "extraordinary detail using super high resolution or 'gigapixel' photo-capturing technology," explained Sood.

Each of these images comprises 7 billion pixels, or roughly 1,000 times more detailed than pictures taken by the average digital camera. See, for example, the Latin couplet in Hans Holbein the Younger's The Merchant Georg Gisze in Berlin's Gemaldegalerie.

A microscope view leverages Picasa to render the images at high resolution. Specifically, users viewing an image via the Art Project Website can use a slider scroll tool to zoom in and out of a picture.

Once a user clicks to explore an image, they're treated to a panel with information about the artwork, artist, related works, as well as YouTube videos about the work.

Users can also save specific views of any of the artworks to build a personalized art collection.

How did Google capture such detailed images from inside the museums? By using Street View, of course. The Street View team built a trolley to take 360-degree images of art in 385 rooms within the galleries.

These stills were then "stitched together" and mapped to their location. Gallery interiors can also be explored directly from within Street View in Google Maps.

The Art Project is an example of how valuable Street View has become as a tool for the company as it seeks to map real-world images online.

Street View has come under siege by privacy experts after Street View cars collected information from citizens' WiFi networks for three years. Google is trying to assuage government concerns about this accidental data collection.