The Google Cultural Institute, an online virtual museum with high-quality digitizations of artifacts from across the globe, recently added more than 1,000 ultra-high-resolution images of classic paintings and other artwork by Monet, Van Gogh and many others. A new robotic camera system Google has developed called 'Art Camera' has made it possible for the organization to add digitizations faster than ever before.

Previously, Google's collection included only about 200 digitizations, accumulated over approximately five years. Art Camera, after being calibrated to the edges of a painting or document by its operator, automatically takes close-up photos of paintings one section at a time, using a laser and sonar to precisely adjust the focus. This process results in hundreds of images that are then sent to Google, where they're stitched together to produce a single gigapixel-resolution photo.

Instead of taking the better part of a day to photograph an item, as the old technology did, Art Camera can complete the process in less than an hour; speaking to The Verge, Cultural Institute’s Marzia Niccolai said a 1m x 1m painting can be processed in half an hour. Google has built 20 Art Cameras and is shipping them to museums around the world for free, enabling the organizations to digitize their artwork and documents. The resulting gigapixel images can be viewed here.