Augmented Reality

Timescope Brings Time Travel in your City

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Have you ever visited the ancient Roman town-city of Pompei? Have you ever been at the top of the Rockefeller Center in New York? Did you make a stop at the vista point to picture the Golden Gate Bridge along the Highway 101? Then, for sure, you’ve seen and maybe even used one of these vintage, if not antique, coin operated binoculars! Well, get ready, a new generation of tower viewers has been born, and it’s called Timescope. The idea is pretty simple: you book your ticket online, for €2 (no need to insert any coins in the machine), locate the Timescope station, once on-site you scan your ticket, finally look through the binoculars to travel back in time and see the history of the site or discover how it will look like in a near future.

Since the beginning of April, there is one Timescope Place de la Bastille in Paris. Go give it a try if you have a chance! Based on first feedback, people are loving it and asking for more of these. Whereas basic tower-viewers let you zoom in the landscape, Timescope stations generate a VR/AR experience to show you the site as it was/will be at a certain time, and replay’s the history just for you. A bit like Timelooper in a way, but anchored to a particular site, high res digital environment and soundscapes, educational content, and a solid design.

Let me introduce you to the project and meet with one of the co-founder, Adrien Sadaka.

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Designed in collaboration with Pierre Charrie, Timescope is a “Street furniture heir of telescopes that can be found on sights, (…) it’s a self-service virtual reality terminal that allows up to relive the history of a place through sourced, educational and realistic content. The first model is installed on the Place de la Bastille in Paris.”

Alecz- Tell me Adrien, when did you start Timescope?

Adrien- We started Timescope about a year ago with my partner Basile Segalen. We built a prototype, really really basic. At that point, we were still wondering if we would do an app or a VR station. As people got completely excited about it, we decided to build a real one. It took us six months to build a prototype. We hired a designer, Pierre Charrie, who designed the whole user experience, and end of summer 2015 we had a first prototype. This drove us to create the first station that is now located Place de la Bastille in Paris. Since then, we hired two more engineers, Guillaume who is working on the mechanical stuff and Tristan, who is working on the software which is embedded into the hardware.

AZ- Did you have some support or funding when you started to work on your prototype?

A- No, nothing like this. We decided to go our own way. We have different partners, such as BPI and we went into an incubator (104 Factory) and an accelerator. And finally, but not last, we got authorization from Mairie de Paris to test our prototype in the street, which is a high level of support for a city hall.

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“We don’t even need to do commercial prospection, it naturally comes to us.”

AZ- Ok, so there is one Timescope right now on Place de la Bastille, when did you install it?

A- Two weeks ago, we had a huge media coverage. We didn’t control any of this, we didn’t expect it at all. I mean, we were expecting one or two articles but not as much. All the major TV channels, all the major newspapers, all the media such as Les Inrocks or Telerama. This gave us a strong visibility and a lot of feedback from people that want to get involved in one way or another. Basically, we don’t even need to do commercial prospection. It naturally comes to us.

AZ- What is the most exciting project that media coverage brought to you up to now?

A- I can’t talk about it yet (laughs). There is a huge list, and every single day new projects are coming up. The good thing is that every single project is highly exciting, you know, it’s all about teleportation, the culture, history, the future … We thought that we would have to convince people on the project but, as I said, everybody is into it and already convinced by our product. It’s really amazing!

AZ- Yes, the beauty of VR is that it’s all about the imagination of the users, so it’s really easy to get excited by this new tech.

A- Yeah totally, it’s not a boring business at all, it’s all about bringing magic back to the world as tells the Magic Leap’s signature.

AZ- So, can you tell me if you are already working on different stations for different countries, or even for Disney Land maybe?

A- Hey, that is a very smart idea that you have! I can’t tell you exactly what will be the next ones because, well, first, these are discussions that we having right now and secondly, we like to tease about the next ones, so we are keeping it secret for the moment. But I can tell you that different historical contexts will be involved, comparable to La Bastille (historical landmarks into the cities). There is so much history to cover! There will be other kinds of experiences also, kind of teleport experiences in which you will be able to see from a point of view you normally don’t have access to. So, imagine by example that you will have access to places which are on a top of a building or at the top of an island, and other experiences through which you will see how your city will look like in a near future! Many cities are being renovating, going through architectural works and we helping corporations to communicate through Timescope. So, to sum it up, you will be able to see the past, the future, and other kinds of teleportation into spaces. It’s a teleport cabin.

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“We visited Pompei together few years ago and, while enjoying it, we thought it was really frustrating to not see and feel how it was before.”

AZ- Compared to the Oculus, or other VR headsets, how would you talk of the feeling of immersion or presence?

A- Yeah, there are differences, by example with Timescope, it’s not your head which is moving. When you use the Timescope you use your body more than you move your head. It’s a VR experience designed for public spaces. In fact, it works exactly like a regular binocular telescope.

AZ- People will have to insert coins in order to use it?

A- No, we developed a special design that works without coins. All the major players and city halls told us not to use coins,  so right now you pay online to get access the content. You get a ticket for one, two, as many as you want, and you scan it at the station. Soon you will be able to pay directly on the station with your credit card. You know, it’s like Oculus did with the Dk1, dk2 and then cv1, we’re discovering new technical stuff and possibilities every single day. Our first product is already really strong, but the next ones will be even stronger!

AZ- No vandalism issue so far?

A- No, luckily not! We have anticipated this, though. We imagined all kind of horrible situations and we’re not really worrying about that anymore. The only annoying thing would be stickers or graffiti. But the Timescope itself is very, very solid, I would say almost impossible to break.

AZ- So tell me, how did you get this idea? Did you wake up one morning with this crazy idea on your mind?

A- Aha! Not really, my partner and I are both interested in new tech. I worked in business consulting before and he worked in communication fields. So we’re coming from fields that are not technical at all. We visited Pompei together few years ago and, while enjoying it, we thought it was really frustrating not to see and feel how it was before. Later on, when we first tried VR headsets, it reminded us our idea and we thought VR would be the perfect fit to do what we had on our mind. So, we did quit our jobs and started to work on our project.

AZ- Do you think you will have more Timescope stations this summer in Paris?

A- No, not that early, I mean, I don’t think so but let’s see what happens!

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AZ- Well, you guys came up with a good idea, if your product is well designed, I’m pretty sure it will work really well. Do you have other projects going on?

A- We have a lot of inquiries, a lot of work right now, but I can’t really talk about it. We have other products on our mind too. The first feedback is really encouraging so we really know what to do for the next step.

AZ- Ok, I got that. Well, I have a more techy question for you now. Do you guys work with engines such as Unity3D or Unreal to create your content?

A- No, at all. Our engineer Tristan is currently working on the software embedded in the Timescope, he’s creating the software using html, java, c# ..

AZ- So you will have exclusive rights on your software. That’s a smart move.

A- Yeah, but I’m sure we will have competitors. We have the first move advantage so now we have to keep being on top!

AZ- Yes, and a good communication/PR team! Are you looking for more people to join your team?

A- Yeah, totally!

AZ- Well, thank you so much Adrien! I’m repeating myself but, hell yes, this is a great project that you’re lauching, I hope to see soon Timescope stations all around the world!

A- So do we! (laughs). Thank you!

Timescope is a Paris-based company. Please comment on the article if you have questions for Adrien & Basile.

Dossier de presse (in french).
Photo Credit: Damien Arlettaz

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Primarily interested in the transdisciplinary intersections among cognitive sciences, gamification and media philosophy, Alecz has a deep background in science, art and technology. After researching on intertextualities within the transhuman discourse at the era of the Psychedelic Renaissance, and developing serious games dedicated to VR headsets such as the Oculus Rift & Samsung Gear VR, Alecz is currently initiating HIGHWAY101, Experiential Technology Community, a creative hub that encourages the praxis of experiential technologies as therapeutical engines.

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