Google’s new VR experience lets users explore prehistoric cave art

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A new Google VR experience lets users view ancient cave paintings.
Image: Google

The thought of discovering prehistoric cave paintings probably hasn’t crossed the minds of many people. Still, doesn’t it sound like a fun adventure? Finding the artistic remnants of our ancient ancestors is an eye-opening experience that, thanks to Google, everyone can now enjoy.

The Big Tech company just launched a new collection on its Arts & Culture app called “Chauvet: Meet the Ancestors.” It is based on the Chauvet Cave in Ardèche, France, one of the best-known sites of prehistoric art. Now, virtual visitors can gaze at photos, 3D models, and even take a virtual reality (VR) tour of the cave with Star Wars actress Daisy Ridley.

Immersion into the Arts

Looking at a photo of a painting is one thing. Getting to view it in real life, to see the textures of each brushstroke, is an entirely different experience. Everyone has seen the Mona Lisa. Yet, more than 10 million tourists flock to Paris’ Louvre Museum every year to see it in person.

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Sadly, no one without special credentials will be stepping foot inside the Chauvet Cave anytime soon. After its discovery in 1994, the site was closed to the public to preserve it and to prevent damage. While some replicas of the cave have been created, including a full-sized one in southern France, most people still won’t get to visit the area.

Now, with Google’s VR renderings, anyone can step inside the Chauvet Cave. Each ancient painting is there to witness. The company’s “Meet the Ancestors” gallery contains 54 curated exhibits and more than 350 digitized assets. There are 3D models of iconic cave paintings, animal skulls left behind by the people who lived there in ancient times, and informative articles on the history of the cave and its art.

Taking the Tour

Perhaps one of the more interesting things related to this project is the fact that Google has released a 10-minute VR tour of the cave. Rather than viewing the various paintings and artifacts separately, people can enjoy the Chauvet Cave in its entirety.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Daisy Ridley is narrating the experience.

Her calming voice follows users as they explore the cave with a torch in-hand. Those who step into the virtual cave are encouraged to embrace each sign of the past, creating a reverent atmosphere.

For those who don’t have a VR headset, there will also be a non-interactive version of the tour on Google’s Arts & Culture YouTube channel. However, if you can get your hands onto one, the tour is well worth experiencing in its full capacity.

Meanwhile, Google is also hosting an augmented reality (AR) version of the experience called a “Pocket Gallery” that lets users look around a life-sized model of the cave. A simple Google search for “Chauvet Cave” should return a result that prompts users to “View in 3D” like some of the company’s other AR projects.

Regardless of how you choose to check out this ancient landmark, it’s worth the time. With Google’s new VR experience, getting closer to prehistoric cave paintings has never been easier.

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