Cablegate: Google Images the Iraq National Museum


DE RUEHGB #2827/01 2941430
R 211430Z OCT 09



E.O. 12958: N/A



1. (U) Summary: In support of Section IV of the Strategic Framework
Agreement (SFA), post supports programs to preserve Iraq's cultural
heritage. To augment these efforts and harness the interest and
expertise of the American private sector, we have partnered with
several leaders from the IT industry in the U.S. As follow-up to
the April visit of several leading IT CEOs, three Google engineers
traveled to Baghdad October 7-14 to image the Iraq National Museum
using several new Google technologies. The images they took will
allow browsers, using new technology, a chance to "visit" the Iraq
National Museum and to learn more about Iraq's heritage. End

Google To The Rescue!

2. (U) Building on techniques used for Google Maps and Google
Street View, Google engineers Dan Ratner, Alex Starns and Matt
Williams took almost 15,000 pictures during three visits to the Iraq
National Museum to catalog all the exhibits currently on display.
After processing, browsers worldwide will be able to "walk" through
the museum and take a close look at all of the artifacts in the
museum. While in Baghdad, the engineers met with several groups of
Iraqis interested in learning new ways to further develop Iraq's IT
industry. The Street View team members also met with Embassy, MNF-I
and Iraqi counterparts to learn more about Iraq and discuss ways to
develop Iraq's IT industry with their interlocutors.

Street View Goes Indoors

3. (SBU) Over three visits to the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad
on October 8, 11 and 13, the Google team imaged all the exhibits
currently on display. Dan Ratner, a senior engineer and designer of
the Street View technology, along with operations engineers Alex
Starns and Matt Williams, spent eight days in Iraq to accomplish
their goal of bringing Street View technology inside a museum for
the first time ever. Google originally planned to image a museum or
another building as a test case before coming to Iraq but were not
able to do so; the Iraq National Museum was the first imaged museum
and marked the first time Google used the adapted Street View
technology inside a building.

Google Tools in Iraq

4. (SBU) Street View, a Google technology developed two years ago,
enables browsers to "walk" along streets by sending cars with high
resolution cameras on streets around the world. Over 99 percent of
U.S. streets have been driven and photographed and there are roughly
500 Street View cars now on the road in various countries. Taking
it a step further in Iraq, the Google team set out to map and image
inside a building. To capture data normally done by a car-mounted
camera with a hard drive in the trunk, Mr. Ratner built a trolley to
gather image and location information inside buildings and the Iraq
National Museum was the first location the team tested this new
technology. The data the trolley collected should be able to make
precise indoor maps to complement photos that the team took with
high resolution still cameras and with specially developed,
bracketed exposure panorama cameras. Another complimentary
technology that will allow mapping and imaging outdoors on paths,
parks and even mountain bike trails where a car can not drive,
Ratner built a tricycle that was unveiled on the Today Show October
16. (NOTE: The tricycle was not used in Baghdad. END NOTE.)

Stuff View

5. (U) Mr. Starns brought another new Google technology, Stuff
View, with him to image individual artifacts at the museum. Using a
simple cloth box, lights, cameras and a rotating disc, Starns placed
small objects (up to the size of a coke can) on the disc and took
Qsmall objects (up to the size of a coke can) on the disc and took
108 pictures of each object as he rotated it slowly. Working
closely with the museum staff, he Stuff Viewed 20 artifacts and in a
matter of weeks internet browsers will be able to view these
artifacts in great detail from all angles.

Googlers Meet Iraq's Future Sergey Brin?

7. (U) On October 10 the Google team met with 10 young computer
scientists and IT professionals to talk about the Street View
project, explain Google and brainstorm on how to improve Iraq's IT
industry. The young tech professionals explained the challenges
they face working with limited connectivity and oppressive
bureaucracy. The Google team explained that there were many more
tools available at no cost that might help them grow or start their
businesses. Seeing the potential in Iraq and in the young Iraqis,
one Google engineer told emboff half-seriously that he wanted to
give each Iraqi seed money on the spot to see what kind of start-up
company they could develop.
Briefings, Brainstorming Sessions
8. (U) The Google team received a military briefing on the security
situation in Iraq and met the Economic Counselor to discuss the
potential of the Iraqi economy and possibilities for a high-tech
Iraq. Representatives from International Exchanges and Research
Board (IREX), an NGO active in Iraq, explained their efforts to
educate Iraqis about the tools the internet and computers have to
offer. They highlighted how Google Earth had helped them to map
centers for disabled Iraqis so they could either visit the centers
or contact them easily to request services. The Google team
directed the IREX team to the Connect Alabama project as a model for
how technology and mapping could be used effectively to make
government services more accessible using tools readily available on
the internet.

9. (U) Comment: The mere fact the Google engineers traveled to Iraq
was a success for the Support Network for a Digital Iraq (SNDI)
initiative, a concept developed after the April visit to Baghdad
that hopes to provide an online forum to encourage U.S. companies to
engage and help develop Iraq (septel). That the Google team brought
breakthrough technology with them and imaged the Iraq National
Museum as their first indoor Street View experiment is even greater.
There was no press coverage of the Google visit because the
technology they used has not yet been released. When this happens,
their visit will serve as a good example of how SNDI-ITTF efforts
can advance USG goals as laid out in the SFA. End Comment.


© Scoop Media

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