How to reach new audiences and to renew the cultural offer through new media? Given the number of available digital applications, the element of surprise is essential for any heritage sites which wish to offer a digital experience.
To revive the historical sites that are only vestiges, complex concepts of scenography have to be developed in order to reconstruct the past by using the technology and to put the public in total immersion. For example, moving into a room of a castle, one can be the actor of a virtual exploration in real time of every little details of the room: the throne, the benches for the council, the safes, the murals, etc.
This is exactly what was conceived for the Falaise Castle in Normandy, France, where William the Conqueror was born. The new interactive experience implemented in Falaise is a unique mix of virtual walks with augmented reality, educational films and slides in relief. It changes the visit of a classic medieval museum in an attractive and fun space-time adventure. The visit tools called HistoPad (digital tablets to travel back in time) and Histocam (binoculars to see the past in Stereo3D) are totally part of the scenography.
Since the introduction of these new visit tools, the castle has evaluated changes in visitor behaviour especially in terms of length of visit, satisfaction, willingness to return and to recommend the visit. The first feedbacks indicate that the Falaise Castle can definitely serve as a best practice in the use of new technologies as a link between the past and the present, in a perfect accordance with the visitors’ expectations and the uniqueness of the site. In the project it is used: Virtual and Augmented Reality, Mobile and Internet Applications, Films and Animations, 3D stereo and special effects, Scenography and Guided Tour within an artistic and production direction.
The case of Falaise castle is iconic since its restoration in a contemporary style in the '90s sparked much controversy as it made little justice to the history of the place and it was considered as unattractive for the visitor.
When entering the main hall of the castle, the visitor may indeed be frustrated since it is completely empty. The aim of the use of augmented reality was therefore to revive the castle rooms, to develop a rich scenography despite the previous restoration and to satisfy a public so far disappointed.
Today every visitor is provided with a iPad (or HistoPad) included in the tour price. Through the device, visitors are invited to enter the castle through a so-called “time gate”. When they point the tablet towards the time gate, visitors discover the setting up of the origins, as it was when William the Conqueror was born in 1027. This reconstruction was performed with a large number of experts to ensure its authenticity. With the tablet, the visitor walks into a room and then in another and is able to find explanations, zooms and details. Whether it is the colors, the shapes, materials, furniture: everything has been scientifically validated. The public is in total immersion. People can scan ships, catapults, trebuchets, and bombards in all angles, and even actuate them. A treasure hunt is also available for children.
For those who do not want tablets, original video projections of historical figures of spectacular size make it possible to obtain information; in the park, viewers can use 3D binoculars (or Histocam) to see the landscape they have in front of them like it was in the eleventh century, with farms, farmers, animals, and the wall of the fortress.
M. Bruno de Sa Moreira
M. Edouard Lussan
Normandy Productions, Paris - France
Château Guillaume-Le-Conquérant de Falaise