While the potential of 3D scanning and 3D printing technology is obviously enormous, perhaps its most long-lasting effects will be felt through cultural and historical preservation. The ability to document and preserve precious artifacts and monuments in their current state, including distinctive marks, surface textures and coloration all in the finest of detail, means that even the passing of time, natural disasters, or even terrorists cannot truly destroy the world’s greatest artifacts. This is even being felt in war-torn Syria, and 3D printed replicas of the Bull of Nimrod and the Palmyra temple are preserving relics that were cruelly torn from humanity’s grasp.

The same principles are readily being applied all over the world, even in Vietnam thanks to the efforts of Quang Tri Nguyen. Even at a young age, he recognized the importance of preserving Vietnamese culture—one of the oldest in Southeast Asia. To preserve it from harm, he started 3D scanning and publishing digital3D models of ancient Vietnamese sculptures through his company VR3D. Last year, this already resulted in a Virtual 3D Museum of the ancient Vietnamese sculptures that can be admired from every corner in the world.

But fast forward a year, and VR3D has taken things to an even higher level. This time around, they have 3D scanned not just a series of statues, but a complete monument, with the data being several hundred times bigger than their previous project. The monument in question is the Đình Tiền Lệ, an ancient common house from the Vietnamese village of Hoai Duc (near Hanoi). “Đình (village hall) is the common house of a Vietnamese village commune, and actually houses three functions: administrative, religious and cultural,” Quang Tri Nguyen says. “Đình Tiền Lệ has become the first large historic monument to be preserved and displayed fully intact through digitization and interactive 3D technology.”

Like the digital 3D museum, it has been completely set up to enable digital tours online. Anyone can freely interact with the high quality 3D scan as though they were in Vietnam. The developers also optimized the website on the HTML5 platform so users can access it and interact from nearly any device, from smartphones to smartTVs, without the need for installing additional apps, plugins or software. What’s more, a VR version is coming soon, that should be viewable with our without any VR goggles.

Of course this is not the first digital tour of a monument or the first digitization project involving artifacts, but Quang Tri Nguyen explained that most others disappointed him. “The result are mainly point-cloud type, or consist of low-quality and uncompleted meshes, and almost no project can be view online (and with this quality),” he says. “So we think this is the first large monument that has been completely digitized from inside to outside, with angles of a very high quality, and it’s also very easy to view in 3D online.”

To ensure that level of quality, the monument manager also went through great care to get every detail just right. As a result, it is a perfect copy in terms of color, size, shape, and can even be used as a reference during restoration or repairing damage. Any deformations can easily be spotted, and researchers can even measure details in the 3D model or make cross sections without every visiting Vietnam. As a result, VR3D’s model is also an excellent educational tool, and it took more than four months just to scan the monument and process all that data.