Along with a sizeable chunk of the world's cities and roadways, Google StreetView lets users explore coral reefs, the Grand Canyon, the Amazon river, and the tiny streets of the world's largest model railroad display, without having to put on pants. Using the same technology, the Google Cultural Institute extends coverage to performing arts centers like the Sydney Opera House and museums like New York's Guggenheim, and now the company's added a natural history flavor to its virtual tours, bringing to life creatures past and present.
On Google Arts & Culture, virtual visitors can wander the halls and take in the sights of over 50 natural history institutions from around the world, which Google has partnered with for this initiative. Dinosaur buffs are particularly well catered for, with additions including a walk around 30 Iguanadon skeletons in the Belgium Museum of Natural Sciences.
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Google's new offering adds a VR element to guided audio walking tours commonly found in museums. One of the new 360-degree videos begins with the viewer "standing" in front of skeleton of a Giraffatitan (which you may know as a Brachiosaurus) in the Museum für Naturkunde Berlin. As a narrator explains the creature's ecosystem and habits, skin and muscles are added over the bones and it begins to move. To achieve as realistic an effect as possible, Google explains that the team worked with ecologists, paleontologists and biologists to recreate the ancient creature.
In all, over 300,000 new photos and videos are now available online as part of the collection, as well as 30 virtual tours, 150 interactive stories and a host of exhibitions and articles. It can all be accessed online or through the Google Arts & Culture app on iOS and Android, and with the latter option, the StreetView and 360-degree content can be viewed through Google Cardboard or Gear VR.
Check out some of the items on display in the video below.