Timescope uses virtual reality to transport viewers hundreds of years into the past.
Who said time travel wasn't possible?
There are certain cities that evoke history. At every corner, it seems, there’s another landmark, historic building, or piece of art that sparks the imagination. Paris, with its churches, cobblestone streets, and museums, is decidedly one of those places, where you can’t help but wonder what it looked like in centuries past. Wonder no longer: A start-up tech company has figured out a way to show you how certain iconic locations might have looked hundreds of years ago, using virtual reality (VR). Earlier this week, Timescope unveiled the newest in a growing line of “self-service virtual reality services” that transport viewers to a different time or place. In this case, you can peer into the machine, located near the Pont d’Arcole bridge which connects Paris's Ile de la Cité with the historic Marais district, and get a 360-view of the banks of the River Seine in 1628.
The Timescope unit on the newly pedestrianized walkway shows a very different city. By looking into the machine, which is free to use, you’ll see the cargo barges and fishing trawlers that once crowded the busy river. Point the telescope in a different direction, and see 17th-century architecture and streets built for carriages instead of Citroëns. In developing the animated 360-degree video, which is accompanied by the ambient street sounds of merchants and river birds, the Timescope team consulted with historians to make it as accurate as possible. An augmented reality (AR) element is added to the overall experience, as overlaid text points out important landmarks, like the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), which was completed during the reign of Louis XIII in—you guessed it—1628.
Timescope's latest machine is set up on the newly pedestrianized walkway along the River Seine.
Parisian co-founders (and childhood friends) Adrien Sadaka and Basile Segalen first came up with the idea for Timescope on a trip to Pompeii, Sadaka tells Condé Nast Traveler. They had gone to the Ancient Roman city, destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 79 AD, for “a time travel experience,” but were disappointed to instead find modern development and crowds of tourists. So, they decided to create an immersive experience of their own back home that would offer a glimpse of all that history around the world that, century by century, has been replaced with high rises and traffic intersections.
The machine near the Pont d’Arcole is the third one Timescope has installed around Paris. The first, located in Bastille in Paris’s center, allows travelers to view the famous fort as it was in 1416 and 1798 and costs €2 per view. The other, is less time travel and more tourist preview: At Charles de Gaulle Airport, you can “teleport” to some of Paris’s most popular landmarks before visiting them in person. The company is looking at Normandy for the next machine—although Sadaka did not want to reveal where and when the experience would focus on—and in total hopes to roll out 20 different units this year in different spots around the world. For now though, for a first-person view into the distant past you’ll have to head to Paris. Happy (time) travels!