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.
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.
“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.