VersaillesVR: Explore the Palace of Versailles in Virtual Reality

When I was 27, I took one of those three-week Trafalgar bus trips on an excursion across Western Europe: England, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Austria…I’m sure some of you have done it too.

While I got to see Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre museum, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, sadly I did not get an opportunity to go see a place I had always dreamed of visiting: the sprawling, ornate Palace of Versailles, once home to the Kings and Queens of France and the royal court.

If, like me, you always wanted to wander the halls and galleries of Versailles as a tourist, you will welcome a brand new release from Google Arts & Culture, titled VersaillesVR: The Palace Is Yours:

You can teleport around various rooms and halls in the famous palace, including the Hall of Mirrors, the Royal Chapel, and the Royal Opera House. A handy map of the palace on your left wrist lets you jump from one room to another in an instant! And no crowds; you get the entire palace to yourself!

I have only one complaint with this wonderful program. Oddly, there are no snap or smooth turns available to reorient yourself using your hand controllers! You will need to physically turn yourself around at times, which means that you can get tangled up in your VR headset cable, or have your back to your tracking stations! It’s a bit irritating. But other than that, I am overjoyed with this new app! You can spend hours exploring.

And the best part? It’s totally free!

VersaillesVR is available now as a free download from Steam, and it works with the Valve Index, HTC Vive, and Oculus Rift VR headsets only. The experience requires a Windows 10 PC with 20GB of available storage and at least a NVIDIA GTX 1060 GPU. VersaillesVR is available in French, English, or Chinese.

Le château de Versailles est à vous de découvrir!
The Palace of Versailles is yours to discover!

The Royal Chapel at Versailles (from the VersaillesVR app):
You can click on objects to learn more about them, like the pipe organ.
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Art Plunge: Step Inside Famous Works of Art in Virtual Reality

I just love VR apps about fine art and artists! Art Plunge is a short but satisfying program for the Oculus Go, Gear VR, and Google Daydream, which is now also available for the Oculus Rift VR headset.

Art Plunge allows you to actually step into three-dimensional versions of five famous paintings in the history of Western art:

You can’t move around while you are inside the painting, but you can tilt your head from side to side, look around you, etc. In the Mona Lisa, Mona’s gaze follows you are you move your head from side to side, a subtle but realistic touch! It almost feels as if Mona is patiently waiting for you to speak to her. Very effective.

The app is only CAD$2.29, so what have you got to lose? Give it a try! I loved it, and I only wish I could step into more paintings. Perhaps the developers will issue an expansion pack sometime in the future. I would definitely pay more to be able to step into some more famous paintings!

Occupy White Walls Now Allows You to Submit Artist Suggestions

Occupy White Walls (OWW for short) just keeps getting better and better. OWW allows you to create your own gallery and curate an art collection, pulling from a catalogue of thousands of artworks, from the ancient to the modern. People are doing insanely creative things with the platform (see the pictures here and here).

Occupy White Walls is working to expand the catalogue of art from which users can select items to display in their galleries. I am on their mailing list, and in a recent email they announced:

In June we added 461 public domain artworks and many artworks from contemporary artists too!

And, in response to user requests, you can now submit artist suggestions to OWW for them to consider adding to the game. They do caution:

While we love all art, sometimes it is not possible to have them in game, an example of this would be artists who died less than 70 years ago and are not in the public domain in their country of origin. Images need to me 2MB or larger in file size.

Here’s the form. You can submit as many different artists as you wish. I intend to use it to suggest some of my favourite Renaissance artists to OWW!

You can download Occupy White Walls for free from Steam.

Coming Soon: Explore the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel in Virtual Reality

This is a blog devoted to social VR, virtual worlds, and the metaverse, so I usually don’t cover non-social VR experiences (i.e. those you visit alone). But I’m going to make an exception for an experience showcased at the SIGGRAPH 2019 conference in Los Angeles.

VentureBeat reports:

There’s no shortage of sophisticated mixed reality hardware at Siggraph, but I was most impressed by a piece of software that really demonstrated VR’s educational and experiential potential. Christopher Evans, Paul Huston, Wes Bunn, and Elijah Dixson exhibited Il Divino: Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling in VR, an app that recreates the world-famous Sistine Chapel within the Unreal Engine, then lets you experience all of its artwork in ways that are impossible for tourists at the real site.

Il Divino: Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling in VR is described by its creators as follows:

The demo was created exclusively for the SIGGRAPH 2019 Immersive Pavilion, by the team behind the previous SIGGRAPH 2017 VR piece: Il Gigante: Michelangelo’s David in VR. Debuting at SIGGRAPH on Valve’s INDEX headset, Il Divino delivers an experience of the highest fidelity –you can see individual cracks and brush strokes in the plaster!

Attendees can step onto Michelangelo’s own scaffold to learn about how he painted the ceiling, or enter a Vatican conservator’s mobile aerial platform to see the ceiling up close, and learn about the controversial cleaning. In all, there are over 100 clickable elements connected to an hour of commentary talking about Michelangelo’s monumental work.

Later this year, it will be released to all as a freely downloadable experience, and it will continue to be added to and improved in the future.

This reminds me of a virtual recreation of the Sistine Chapel in Second Life, which I visited sometime in 2007 or 2008 (unfortunately, it is no longer available to visit):

My angel avatar visit the Sistine Chapel in Second Life (circa 2007)

If you are curious about how this VR experience was constructed, here is more information on the techniques used. There’s even some suggestions as to how you can help improve the project.

Here’s a video of the experience:

And here’s an interview with one of the creators, Chris Evans.