Google Adds Famous Monuments & Iconic Buildings to Augmented Reality Search Feature

Even with unlimited resources and a serious case of wanderlust, it’s unlikely that you or I will be able to see all of the most famous structures in the world in person.

That being the case, Google can now bring those landmarks to you in augmented reality.

Google’s Arts & Culture team has added 3D virtual tours of 19 iconic landmarks to its Search product, including locations like Tokyo Tower, Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella basilicas in Florence, and the Union Buildings in South Africa. The 3D models are built using 3D data from Google Earth and displayed via ModelViewer, Google’s protocol for handling 3D and AR content on the web.

(1) Tokyo Tower, (2) Santa Croce Basilica, (3) Union Buildings. Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

“Not only will you be able to navigate smoothly to each stop of the tour but objects along the way can also be viewed in AR,” wrote Florent Robineau and Joe Shepherd, tech lead and associate product manager, respectively, at Google Arts & Culture on the company’s website. “So while you explore the heights of Tokyo Tower, you can discover its historic inspiration in your own home.”

What the team doesn’t mention is that these models, plus many more, are viewable in AR via Google Search. There are nearly 100 buildings in monuments by my count, including such iconic landmarks as the Statue of Liberty, Stonehenge, Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Alcatraz Island, Parthenon, Christ the Redeemer, St. Peter’s Basilica, and many more.

Just search for any of the sites listed above and look for the “View in 3D” button in your search results. Upon viewing the model in AR, you can swipe up for a carousel of other monuments to view.

(1) Statue of Liberty, (2) Leaning Tower of Pisa. Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality

Google Arts & Culture has previously brought 3D models of historic sites like Chauvet Cave, but those were recreated using 3D scanning. The latest treasure trove lacks high fidelity, but we’re also dealing with much more massive structures where 3D scanning would be a Herculean feat.

Since announcing AR content for Google Search, Google has steadily expanded the available content types. After starting with animals, Google has added products, spaceships, athletes and even Baby Yoda to AR search results.

AR content in Google Search stands alongside Live View, the AR walking navigation mode for Google Maps, and Google Lens, the company’s AR visual search tool, as not only the most useful AR products the company has to offer, but also the more exciting use cases for AR in the coming era of smartglasses.

(1) Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, (2) Empire State Building. Images by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality
Cover image by Tommy Palladino/Next Reality