An innovative VR experience to travel back in time
Excited about the idea of travelling in history? BEYOND the CASTLE makes it real! The project, started in March 2018, is the first VR Location Based Edutainment (LBEd) experience of Beyond The Gate, based in the Sforza Castle, Milan, that makes people travel back in time to the Italian Renaissance. After a walk on the battlements, inside the Falconer Tower, users wear HTC Vive Headsets becoming archers, to explore the castle from a new point of view.
An immersive experience to learn about History from inside
The project is a cutting-edge VR format that moves users from passive viewers to active participants, fully involved and immersed in the virtual environment. During the game, visitors are guided by the voice of an artificial intelligence, Eva, which tells them tips about the history and secrets of the castle. Here, as archers, they train their skills using different weapons, like the longbow or the bombardella, one of the most famous Italian fireguns of the period. The hands-on approach let visitors learn about weapons’ different features in a more effective and engaging way.
Furthermore, the high-level quality of the game design makes them live a deep immersive experience, feeling even the vibration of the bowstring while nocking the arrow.
The sound environment has, for this reason, a key role: in the game, players hear the cannon bursts, the bombardment shots, as if everything is really happening, living a deep and personal experience.
The research behind: philological reconstruction to connect past and present
What makes this project unique is the strong connection between real and virtual, as every detail in the game was created to recall the present-day castle, from inside to outside.
Today only few traces remain of what was the original Sforza Castle, as it was destroyed and modified during four centuries of foreign dominations and world conflicts.
Through the experience BEYOND the CASTLE, users could learn about how it was in the XV century, at the age of Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.
The project was realized in collaboration with the University of Milan, after a philological research on historical documents, ancient maps and sources.
During the game players move into the XV century Falconer Tower and lean from the battlements to see the massive outer defensive wall, the Ghirlanda, today mostly destroyed. Moreover, the project allows visitors to learn about places that have changed over the centuries in a way that would not be possible otherwise. In the final level, they explore the virtual reconstruction of the Laghetto of Santo Stefano, the area of the University of Milan, where in the past, through water canals, the barges left with the marble blocks for the construction of the Duomo Cathedral.
Accessible VR technology to rediscover the past
BEYOND the CASTLE was created to make people rediscover one of the most important cultural heritage sites of Milan, the Sforza Castle. The launch was very well received by the press (here a summary of our press release) and during these first eight months thousands of people tried the experience. Thanks to the edutainment nature of the content, the experience attracted families, couples and non-gamers and around 90% of the customers never tried VR before.
In order to reach different kinds of audience, it was important, during the development, to think about accessibility and technology ease of use, to create an experience suitable for all. For this reason, at the beginning of the game, a starting level introduces visitors to this new world. Here they can test their new virtual hands and move into the space, getting familiar with technology. Moreover, the voice of Eva guides them in every step of the game, providing information and suggestions to make them feel comfortable.
VR & Education: the school project
Nowadays it is necessary to find new channels to drive students contents and communicate with them, speaking their own language. The Millenials, born in the “experience age” are always connected and surrounded by technology. So, what about teaching with virtual reality?
Our school projects, started in September, give the opportunity to whole classes to try this innovative educational approach. In fact, for different reasons (i.e. costs, complexity of the technology and more…) VR is not yet widely used in schools. To make this technology accessible to every student, we developed ad-hoc projects, designing pre and post complementary in-depth activities and guided tours.
To ensure their quality, we tested them in summer with associations and summer schools, collecting really positive opinions from both educators and students.
Edutainment content is key for economic sustainability of VR experiences
Most of the VR experiences available in locations across the world are mainly focused on pure entertainment.
Summarizing, BEYOND the CASTLE experiment has shown that high quality content can add value to cultural locations such as castles, museums, cathedrals, allowing people to discover them from another perspective. In addiction, this project has highlighted that combining education and entertainment is key to attract new audiences to try VR.
On the base of these results Beyond the Gate is developing new edutainment experiences that will take users to learn and enjoy new worlds. What will be the next?