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Dec 21, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Virtual reality: ambitious project to enable tourists to visit ancient Rome

"Rome Reborn" is the name of a series of applications and videos which will soon make it possible to (virtually) walk the streets of ancient Rome. The project, which was developed by US researchers, was first launched in 1974, with history buffs now about to benefit from the fruits of 22 years of labour by simply donning a pair of virtual reality glasses. Once the project is complete, it will offer visits to no fewer than 7,000 ancient buildings, including the legendary Pantheon, the Coliseum, the baths of Caracalla, the Circus Maximus and the Basilica Nova.


Journey back in time to visit ancient Rome, all courtesy of virtual reality (VR). A digital project by the name of "Rome Reborn" was unveiled on 20 November by US company Flyover Zone, in collaboration with researchers from the University of Indiana. It will enable the general public to admire the Domus Aurea, the baths of Caracalla and 7,000 other Roman monuments as they were in 320 AD. All that visitor will need to do is put on a pair of virtual reality glasses or switch on their computers, says French website Quotidien Du Tourisme.


The fruit of 22 years of labour


"Rome Reborn" is the highly-anticipated result of an original idea which dates back to 1974. "We had to adjust the model three times due to the progress made in terms of technology, but after 22 years and 3 million dollars [around 2.6 million euros], we have finally made it," explained Bernard Frischer, the archaeologist who is in charge of the project.

The same team of researchers had already worked on a reconstitution of Imperial Rome using virtual reality in the initial version of the project, but "visitors" needed to actually be in the city to take advantage of it. Now however, users will merely have to put on a pair of VR glasses or log onto the computer version of the application in order to virtually travel above the various monuments of ancient Rome, over a total surface area of 14 square kilometres. The programme enables the user to observe and travel around ancient buildings both as they are now and in their original (but reconstituted) forms.


The entire Forum and the Basilica Nova ready for visits


It is already possible to enjoy a full visit of two famous landmarks from the eternal city, namely the Forum and the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine, or Basilica Nova. Within two to three years, "Rome Reborn" will progressively add other ancient sites, including the Pantheon and the Coliseum.

The brains behind the project are already planning to make the immersion even more realistic by offering those users with VR glasses an interactive game, where they will be able to battle gladiators in the arena or take part in chariot races at the Circus Maximus. If the project turns out to be a success, the cities of Athens and Jerusalem could be next on the list for a similar type of virtual reconstitution.


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