In another world: Elementary school students of SD Menteng 03 in Central Jakarta try out Google Cardboard viewers to experience a 360-degree virtual tour of the National Monument (Monas). The construction of the monument is one of the latest entries in the “Wonders of Indonesia” series in the Google Arts & Culture web and mobile application, which has been available on Android and iOS since last Thursday.

Internet giant Google has included more of Indonesia in its Google Arts & Culture web and mobile application, offering an innovative way to explore the country’s rich history and diverse cultures.

The platform now features 360-degree visual tours of seven museums and cultural institutions, which can be enjoyed through the Google Cardboard application for virtual reality viewing.

Those seven institutions are the Textile Museum, the Ceramic and Fine Arts Museum, the Batik Gallery of the Indonesian Batik Foundation (YBI), the National Monument (Monas), the Sangiran Early Man Site and Museum, the Taman Wisata Candi Borobudur temple, the Prambanan and Ratu Boko temple, the Yogyakarta Biennale Foundation and the Bali-based Agung Rai Museum of Art.

“The application not only revolutionizes the archiving system, but also shifts the approach in our effort to preserve national heritage,” said Harry Widianto, the director of heritage site conservation and museums at the Education and Culture Ministry, at the launch of “Wonders of Indonesia” on Thursday at the National Museum, Central Jakarta.

“I hope in the future we will have digital documentation of subak, the age-old farming irrigation system in Bali, and eventually all of our art and cultural heritage,” he added.

The event was also attended by sixth-graders from an elementary school in Menteng, Central Jakarta. They were given the chance to take a tour of Monas and other sites without even crossing the street, thanks to the Google Cardboard viewers.

Initiated by the Google Cultural Institute, Indonesia entered the web platform last year with visual tours of Central Java’s Borobudur and Yogyakarta’s Prambanan and Ratu Boko temples as well as the National Museum in Jakarta.

Data from Google reveals that Indonesia is the sixth-ranked country in digital archiving, followed by South Korea. The top five are the US, Japan, the UK, China and Spain.

The institute’s program manager Dennis Dizon said that the platform currently had 16 digital stories of Indonesia, which included the excavation site at Sangiran, Central Java, the construction of Monas, wayang (traditional puppet theater) and Balinese paintings, but the highlight was the digital images of a batik collection taken with the Google Art Camera.

“The technology will help you see the slightest detail in the textile that you won’t be able to even see when you’re standing in front of it at the museum,” said Dizon.

The camera, equipped with laser and sonar, captures images in gigapixel resolution, which enables 200 times of enlargement to get clear details of the textiles.

The Art Camera is modified to stitch together hundreds to thousands of images to create a high-resolution image in short time. Currently there are 20 such cameras worldwide, including one in Indonesia.

To date, the camera has captured the images 750 pieces of batik out of the targeted 2,000 from all regions of Indonesia.

With the mobile platform available on Android and iOS mobile system, Google Indonesia head of public policy and government relations Shinto Nugroho assured that the app would encourage people to come to the museums and the heritage sites for the real deal.

“The platform is a tool to preserve cultural heritage and to promote it to the world. It also proves that digital technology can open access to experience the world’s wonders,” she said.

Google Cardboard makes VR accessible

In its effort to make virtual reality more affordable, Google has created a virtual reality (VR) viewer made almost entirely of cardboard.

Just placing a smartphone in the compartment in the device will turn it into a VR headset that one can make of a sturdy shoebox.

As Google does not sell Cardboard, it provides open-source plans and developer kits for companies to make out their own Cardboard-inspired viewers, such as Mattel View-master VR and Knoxlabs’ Knox V2.

Tutorials on do-it-yourself versions are available on the Internet.

Google also releases a developer kit that Cardboard developers can use to make new VR apps or add VR to their existing apps as well as the Jump application for VR video.

Using 16 cameras assembled in a geometrical rig (such as GoPro Odyssey), Jump will stitch the images into a VR stereoscopic video to be uploaded on YouTube.

Another Google VR effort is the provision of the Expeditions kit for virtual school excursions that include a tablet computer for the teacher and Cardboard viewers and phones for the students.

“VR technology doesn’t have to be expensive, Google makes sure that everyone can experience it,” said Shinto Nugroho, head of public policy and government relations at Google Indonesia.

For kids only: Six-grader Fawwaz from elementary school SD Menteng 03 in Central Jakarta looks at the National Monument through the Google Cardboard viewer, while Google Cultural Institute program manager Dennis Dizon (left to right), Google Indonesia head of public policy and government relations Shinto Nugroho and Harry Widianto, director of heritage site conservation and museums at the Education and Culture Ministry, look on.