How to View the Notre Dame Cathedral in Virtual Reality
The adage you don’t know what you have got until it’s gone could never ring truer in the wake of the Notre Dame fire tragedy that destroyed the 13th century cathedral’s spire and much of the roof. Now billions of people are scouring the internet and looking for earlier images of the Notre Dame cathedral.
Fortunately for posterity, there have been several efforts in the past to digitally scan the medieval cathedral and render it in 3D and virtual reality. The previous efforts may not have been as comprehensive but in the wake of the wholesale destruction, they now make for an invaluable digital archive that preserves the cultural and architectural heritage of the building. One of the best efforts was by a Vassar College history professor named Andrew Tallon who leveraged cutting-edge laser scanners to capture more than one billion data points which can be combined with the right software to create a perfect 3D model of the cathedral.
There have also been efforts in the recent past to render the cathedral in virtual reality. Here are three virtual experiences that you can use to view the Notre Dame cathedral from the comfort of your couch:-
TARGO 360-Degree Documentary
The French immersive video production company TARGO fortuitously released an 8 minute 360-degree documentary of the Notre Dame cathedral two months ago. The documentary emphasized the cathedral’s “Rector-Archpriest” and also explored its history. The 360-degree documentary is quite detailed and takes the viewer to all corners of the Notre Dame including the top of one of its towers.
You can view the TARGO videos through a host of video providers and virtual reality platforms including the following:-
- PlayStation VR: You can use the WITHIN app, YouTube VR app or the LittleStar app.
- PC VR: Use the WITHIN app, YouTube VR app or the LittleStar app.
- Oculus GO or Samsung Gear VR: Go to the main menu and search for “The Man Behind Notre-Dame”.
Google Earth VR
Google Earth leverages a combination of satellite and aerial photography along with high detail 3D scans in digitally recreating the real world. Paris is one of the best covered cities on Google Earth so it is possible to pull lots of real images of the Notre Dame. Google Earth also allows users to scale the world to their liking and walk around it in VR, a functionality that will allow you to get great views of the old cathedral before the fire.
You can access Google Earth VR app on both SteamVR and Oculus Rift where you will find the Notre Dame cathedral when you open the main menu and then click on the search icon located at the bottom. Simply search for it by using its name and select it when it comes up. To capture enchanting images with the warm glow of the stone, it’s recommended that you change the time of day to sunset.
This is a more indirect and “obscure” way of experiencing the cathedral virtually. It’s not a direct virtual tour but you will rather view and experience it via an interesting VR game. Eagle Flight is a 2016 title where the player flies, in the first person, as an eagle with the aim of building on the tallest point that player can find among the overgrown ruins of a future Paris. The first nest will be on the iconic Notre-Dame cathedral and that is where you can get a VR tour of the iconic landmark before the fire.
The game is enjoyable in itself but you will enjoy it more when it gives you a glimpse into the Notre Dame. It’s available on PlatStation VR, Oculus Rift and SteamVR.