Google’s gigapixel captures of famous masterpieces let you see every stroke

The Google Cultural Institute has been hard at work digitally preserving works of art from collections around the world in “gigapixel” images. The term gigapixel refers to the ultra-high resolution of the photos: each is made of over one billion pixels. (For reference, the more common “megapixel” means one million pixels.)

Gigapixel images are created by stitching together multiple, smaller images. It’s a technique often used for creating panoramic landscape photos, with many consumer cameras and even smartphones able to automate the process. In order to save time and be able to preserve more artworks, the Google Cultural Institute needed its own way to automate the process of capturing such high resolution images, with much more precision and detail than what’s possible by waving your phone around in panoramic mode.

The answer is the Art Camera, a fully-automated system that makes it both faster and easier for museums anywhere to create their own gigapixel reproductions. The Art Camera uses laser and sonar to measure the distance of the artwork, ensuring perfect focus, then robotically steers the camera exactly where it needs to go to capture every detail in ultra close-up. The resulting thousands of images are then stitched together automatically by software, forming a single, ultra-high resolution file.

This animation shows the amount of detail the camera is able to capture. Being able to zoom in to the component parts of a painting reveals some of the hidden secrets of its creation, and inspires a deeper emotional connection to the work.

The Art Camera is designed to work wherever a piece of art is displayed, without changing the lighting or needing to move a piece. This is important not only because it saves time, but because many works are too fragile to be easily transported, and can also be damaged from light. Google has simplified the process even further by announcing that it will provide multiple cameras to museums around the world, for free.

One of the Google Cultural Institute’s goals with the Art Camera is to bring the museum experience to people everywhere, so anyone has the opportunity to view classic masterpieces with the type of detail not otherwise possible without seeing it in person. Being able to zoom in to the component parts of a painting – the individual brush strokes, dabs of color, or the texture of the medium itself – reveals some of the hidden secrets of its creation, and inspires a deeper emotional connection to the work.

The first 1,000 gigapixel reproductions are available for viewing online today. The collection includes work from Cézanne, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Monet, and many others, captured in stunning detail. Not a bad way to celebrate International Museum Day on May 18.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.
Home Theater

Looking for the best 4K Ultra HD TVs you can buy? Here are five great options

If it's time to upgrade your old 1080p to a new 4K model but you don't know what to look for, fear not, as we're here with a list of the best 4K Ultra HD TVs to help make your buying process as easy as possible.
Social Media

Hotel chain offers an Instagram ‘sitter’ who will post photos for you

If the pressure to post stunning Instagram photos is ruining your vacations, then how about hiring a local Instagram influencer to do the job for you while you go off and enjoy yourself? Well, such a service now exists.
Social Media

Ride the rails and share your stories with Amtrak’s new social media residency

Amtrak is looking for travel fans with a knack for telling stories on social media. The new Amtrak social media residency program wants amateur travelers to share photos, video, and written content from aboard long-distance trips.
Photography

Full-frame mirrorless cameras just made their Hollywood debut with this thriller

The Possession of Hannah Grace isn't just a thriller -- it's also the first Hollywood feature film to be shot completely with a full-frame mirrorless camera. The film was shot with several Sony a7S II bodies and anamorphic lenses.
Photography

MIT science photographer isn’t an artist, but her work could fill galleries

Felice Frankel is an award-winning photographer, but she doesn't consider herself an artist. As a science photographer, she has been helping researchers better communicate their ideas for nearly three decades with eye-catching imagery.
Photography

Lens Rentals zooms in on the most popular cameras of the year

As 2018 comes to a close, Lens Rentals is taking a look at most popular cameras of the year, based on rental data. While Sony and Panasonic saw more rentals than the previous year, Canon is still the most-rented brand on the platform.
Photography

Luminar’s new libraries don’t even need you to manually import images

Luminar 3's new libraries feature doesn't require importing -- images are automatically added after clicking on a folder. The long-promised libraries feature gives editors a Lightroom alternative with organization tools as well as syncing…
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

Photography News: Startup redesigns tripod heads ‘inside out’ for more flexibility

Well, this doesn't look like the ball heads that we've seen before. Instead of designing a tripod ball head with a small cutout, the Colorado Tripod Company created one with most of the ball exposed, allowing for more possible angles.
Photography

Leica targets street photographers with a pricey camera bundle

Described by the camera company as "your perfect companion in the city," Leica's Street Kit comprises a Leica CL camera body, a 23mm (35mm full-frame equivalent) F2 lens, batteries, a handgrip, and a black leather carrying strap.
Product Review

Meet Z6, the breakout star in Nikon's new mirrorless lineup

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.