For many, virtual reality (VR) evokes images of blocky, polygonal graphics and simplistic gameplay. Who over the age of 30 doesn't remember “Dactyl Nightmare”? Yet VR has a whole lot more potential than just elaborate games of tag involving extinct species, one of which we're seeing thanks to Timescope, a platform that offers up a look into the past.
Timescope, which set up a unit in Paris near the Pont d'Arcole bridge, near the Marais district, allows users to effectively look into a device—the
eponymous Timescope—to look at the exact same district as it likely would have looked back in 1628. It's being described as a “self-service virtual reality service,” and gives users a complete, 360-degree look at the region.
The video presented is animated, and looks impressive; it features most everything that would be expected of a French region in that era, perhaps except for the cholera. From authentic seventeenth century architecture to streets more suited to pedestrians and occasional horse—even down to the background sounds of era-appropriate merchants and the cries of birds on the river—just about everything is here.
A trip back in time via the Timescope represents just two euros in cost, and reports suggest there will be future Timescope opportunities from
Normandy and beyond. A second Timescope location at the Charles de Gaulle Airport offers a virtualized preview of tourist attractions in the country for arriving tourists.
This represents a perfect example in convenient, capsule form, of just what VR can do, and why Mark Zuckerberg was so interested in buying Oculus way back when. Sure, most of us think of VR as a gaming technology, but it also represents an incredible opportunity for education and travel. We saw this somewhat in an episode of “The Simpsons,” “Marge Vs. The Monorail;” second graders were donning virtual reality headgear to literally spend a day following Genghis Khan around. Now, with Timescope, we're walking into the Seine circa 1628. There's no real reason that Timescope systems couldn't be licensed for home use, either, so the idea of viewing famous landmarks from the past—or from the present as we've seen at the de Gaulle Airport—could be ours from home. Virtual reality allows us to not only experience unlikely realities, but also actual realities occurring present day. The same technology that gives us virtual looks at the Eiffel Tower could take us into the Louvre or into a concert, basketball game, or other event.
Gaming is the lead application for VR, but don't forget the many others, from experiencing the greatest landmarks of a foreign metropolis to seeing back in time to following Genghis Khan on a pillaging rampage. VR could be one of the greatest technologies we've ever generated.
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With a new virtual reality based telescope, users can see back in time, in this case to the Seine in Paris in 1628.