technology to experience history differently

Technology can help showcase our heritage in new ways. Between a time machine, stunning restorations and a guided tour from his sofa, Anthony Morel makes you experience heritage days like no other.

On these heritage days, it is possible to discover the treasures of French history in a different way thanks to technology. For example, a virtual time machine allows you to discover the jewels of our heritage as you have never seen them. Timescope has developed virtual reality terminals that can be found everywhere in France. There are, for example, Place de la Bastille in Paris or at the Town Hall, on the port of Le Havre. They take the form of glasses, or rather binoculars – as you find in many tourist places – and when you put your eyes in front of these lenses, you are transported in time.

We are still – physically – Place de la Bastille, but we find ourselves in 1789, on the morning of the Revolution when the prison was still there, and it was about to be destroyed. Or in front of the Galeries Lafayette as they were in 1912 or in Lutèce in the year 256. You can move, turn 360°, see everything that is happening around you. All of this was reconstructed using engravings, cadastres and working with historians. A technology to give another vision of history. You are at the same time physically in the present, in the street that you have just seen with your eyes, and your brain finds itself in this same space but several centuries apart. The startup, created by two young French people in 2016, is starting to set up shop everywhere with around forty points in all… Another way of understanding history, much livelier than a paper tourist guide or than a Wikipedia record.

Visit monuments from your couch

Another way to virtually visit heritage treasures is virtual reality. It still requires having a helmet (the first prize being cardboard helmets at almost 10 euros, where you put your phone inside as a screen). Thus, the Palace of Versailles, which risks being stormed this weekend, has been digitized by Google using a technology called photogrammetry.

With a helmet on, you can virtually teleport into the castle and visit 21 rooms of the castle, 36,000 square meters in all with all the advantages of virtual reality such as a 360 degree view of the Hall of Mirrors. Applications also allow you to visit the crypt of Bayeux Cathedral, the Abbey of Royaumont, dozens of heritage pearls – almost – as if you were there…

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Stunning restored images

If you don’t have a virtual reality headset, there’s Youtube. Visiting Paris during the Belle Epoque, for example, is now possible thanks to the brilliant work of Denis Shiryaev. This Youtubeur recovered, transformed, colorized and sublimated, the rare period films, obviously very low resolution, whose details were quite blurred, in black and white, and where we could not distinguish much, in 4k film, so super high definition. The result is impressive!

It is possible to see the newly completed Eiffel Tower, the intervention of firefighters in a horse-drawn carriage or children playing with a small boat in the Luxembourg Gardens with an image quality close to that which you would have with your smartphone. We see the detail of the faces, of the clothes.

For this, the restorer of these images used software that runs what are called virtual neural networks. An artificial intelligence capable of refining the image, “imagining” what is hidden under the blurred elements and adding elements in small touches, like a painter, to “fluidify” and improve the sharpness of the image. The result isn’t perfect, but it’s still absolutely stunning.

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