Google Arts & Culture partnered with Château de Versailles to create an extremely detailed VR tour of the iconic French palace, aptly named VersaillesVR – the palace is yours (2019).

The free app, which is now available on Steam with support for Rift, Vive, and Index, takes you through the centuries-old palace, letting you inspect and learn about the UNESCO World Heritage site’s many paintings, sculptures, furniture, as well as few of its gilded halls.

Built for King Louis XIV in the mid-1600s, the Palace of Versailles was the principal royal residence of France until the start of the French Revolution in 1789. And it certainly makes for an interesting historical juxtaposition: what was once only available to the elite is now free for anyone with a PC VR headset to enjoy. Liberté, égalité, fraternité—all that jazz—and no throngs of tourist groups to swim through either.

Inside the experience, which is only available for VR headsets, you can click on artifacts and learn more about them, getting a text explanation as well as a closer look at the discrete 3D models.

A handy map also lets you move around the palace and tour a few of the its storied halls, including the King and Queen’s state apartments, the Royal Opera House, the Royal Chapel (sculpted by Corneil Van Clève in the 18th century), and the iconic 73 meter-long Hall of Mirrors.

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Built using photogrammetry, Google’s Arts & Culture team took 132,000 high-res photos from different angles, and then fed it all into their software to build a 3D model. Coming in at over 7 GB in size, the experience is amazingly detailed to say the least.

Image courtesy Google Arts & Culture

“What makes this experience unique is the size of the digitization we’ve undertaken here in Versailles,” Google Arts & Culture Lab’s Damien Henry says. “We’ve captured 24 rooms in 12 days. We were able to capture 7,000 square meters, and if we count the walls and roof, the total amount is 36,000 square meters.”

Granted, the physical palace measures more than 67,000 square meters of floor space, making the VR experience more of an aperitif that the creators hope will stimulate an appetite for an in-person visit.

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  • Duane Aakre

    Any discussion of a Quest version? Experiences like this may drive me to get the upcoming link cable.

    • Adrian Meredith

      Tbh I recon this would work fine wirelessly streamed. Will try later

  • alboradasa

    “what was once only available to the elite is now free for anyone with a PC VR headset to enjoy”

    i.e. the elite?

    • sebrk

      #vrmasterrace

    • James Cobalt

      Well, yessish. You can get a PC VR headset for $200. Meanwhile, a trip to Versailles, for much of the world, is pretty much out of reach.

    • blimpo

      They’re obviously referring to the context in history… plebs like us couldn’t just waltz into the palace… only royalty. It’s a palace… so historically built for the “elite” of the time.

    • Kaleb Smith

      Derp. Whatever could they mean??

  • Hugh

    very nice.

  • bud01

    Just a friendly tip for any one trying to learn French?
    Here are some nice resources.

    – Drops … for android or apple device,
    – Memrise …
    – Michel Thomas french.
    – Famous US state department FSI course but updated…http://www.drbrianslanguages.com/french.html
    – Rosetta stone
    – italki
    – frenchpod 101

    Start with drops..

    Really nice work from google.

    Drops is really lovely…..

  • Artem Bolgar

    I wonder if there are any plans to implement this in WebXR….

  • Christopher

    Just looks like 360 images with 3d models you can spin?

  • JesperL

    Love it – but cannot seem to activate high gfx settings. Nothing happens from medium to high? – so its not sharp when you get close. But overall its still a nice experience.
    I like that there are actually small passages some places, that take you to rooms not easily visible if you just rush through.

  • The Bard

    For sure not highly polished. Just a very very average quality photogrammetry. Looks amateurish.

  • david vincent

    Nice ! Now do the Louvre.

    “Liberté, égalité, fraternité—all that jazz”
    Well no, the Versailles Palace is the symbol of the French monarchy, so it’s the opposite of “liberté, égalité, fraternité”…

  • pfotogrammetry

    You can see from the video that the photogrammetry was not done with “their software” but with RealityCapture.