The April 25 earthquake in Nepal and powerful aftershocks have not only killed more than 8,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes, but also left historic buildings in ruins. While reconstruction could take decades, the Chinese web services company Baidu has begun a campaign to recreate these structures online.
“We want to apply our own technology instead of donating money or using another corporate relief effort to provide help for the earthquake,” said Kaiser Kuo, Baidu’s director for international communications, in a telephone interview.
In its campaign, called “See you again, Kathmandu,” Baidu has appealed to Internet users to upload their photographs of historic sites. The imaging system requires hundreds of photos taken from different angles and under different weather conditions to create a comprehensive view of the sites. According to Baidu, between 500 and 1,000 photos are needed for the digital re-creation of a single building. These static images can be used to generate a 3-D video to allow users to view the sites from the perspective of a visitor touring them before the earthquake.
Nepal is a popular destination for Chinese tourists, and since the campaign was announced on April 29, more than 42,000 photographs have been uploaded, and eight sites have been 70 percent to 80 percent digitally recreated, including the 17th-century Maju Deval temple in Kathmandu.
“We started with sites on the Unesco World Cultural Heritage list, but we are expecting more sites to be recreated, not only those in Kathmandu, but other damaged buildings in Nepal,” Mr. Kuo said.
To encourage non-Chinese speakers to contribute photographs, the campaign’s website for uploading images is in both English and Chinese. Baidu is also planning to hold an exhibition of the digitally recreated historic sites.