An Overview of Rome Reborn- The Genesis of Virtual Reality

‘Rome Reborn’ is a virtual reality experience that digitally reconstructs ancient Rome at the height of its development, allowing users to explore and appreciate its iconic architecture and historical significance.
 When in Rome

Unlike other metropolises, the eternal city as we know it, ‘Rome’, is frozen in a romantic, timeless realm of Art, Literature, and Architecture.

Revolutionary Roman architecture pioneered visionary concepts that were way ahead of their time and continue to influence architecture even today.

The styles and architectural features that the Romans gave us have been immortalized by historians and architects, but now imagine experiencing them firsthand through virtual access from the comfort of your own home.

What is Rome Reborn?

‘Rome Reborn’ is an enchanting expedition that took place a couple of years ago to witness the eternal city in all its glory. It is a virtual reconstruction of the entire city of ancient Rome at the height of its urban development circa 320 AD.

This virtual reality experience from Flyover Zone productions digitally reconstructs the city’s most iconic locales and assembles before us centuries’ worth of culture, literature, and, most importantly, Roman Architecture, an inch away from our eyes.

It allows us to take in the colossal scale of the architecture, understand the important historical context, and witness the grandeur of these structures before they turned into ruins.

Source: Pexels
Witnessing the journey back to the past

Rome Reborn offers a spectacular aerial view of ancient Rome that takes us back in time. As we move forward in this virtual reality recreation, we not only see the city and all its monuments but are also guided by a renowned “Virtual Archeologist” and overseer of the Rome Reborn project itself, Dr. Bernard Frischer.

The stunningly accurate views and 3D model take us through Rome’s extraordinary architecture and specifically showcases the inseparable and impressive contribution of the Romans- ‘The Aqueducts as they would’ve been looked back in 320 AD.’

Quoting Dr. Steven Zucker, an Art Historian, “When I was studying ancient Rome, one of the most difficult things for me to understand was how all these ancient ruins fit together. Now, with Frischer’s expertise, we can finally understand how the Forum, the Basilica, the Colosseum, the Pantheon and more, fit onto this early but still majestic urban fabric”.

The Birth and Rebirth of Rome Reborn

The practice of recreating Rome has been in existence since the 15th Century via different mediums of communication and expression. Rome Reborn found its roots in 1974 when Dr. Frischer saw Italo Gismondi’s miniaturized model of Rome in the time of Constantine, which later inspired Rome Reborn’s VR hot air balloon flight and spearheaded the revolutionary journey of this virtual interaction and digital preservation.

Through years of collaboration with computer scientists, computational photographers, and digital modelers, Rome Reborn was born, and as of today, it continues to evolve, driven by the advancements in technology and science.


Source: Wikimedia Commons
Modules of Rome Reborn

Currently, Rome Reborn offers three modules available in virtual reality kits catering to a wide variety of scales and two-dimensional versions optimized for viewing on standard computers.

Module 1: Flight Over Ancient Rome

A virtual hot air balloon ride overlooking the city of Rome in 320 AD, which then transports the viewers to thirty-five different stationary locations in the city. While the users are floating over the city and experiencing Roma, Dr. Frischer provides commentary that gives insight into the historical context of every square and piazza. Some of the epochal landmarks include Circus Maximus, the Tombs of Augustus and Hadrian, the Imperial Fora, the Forum, and the Colosseum.

Module 2: The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum Module consists of a free-roaming camera that enables us to zoom in and witness the intricately detailed monuments and sculptures within the Forum. Right from the Temple of Castor and Pollux to the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina and the iconic Arch of Augustus, this module showcases a varied collection of historical landmarks. What sets this module apart is its unique “Time Warp” feature that allows us to seamlessly switch from the virtual reality reconstruction to the present-day ruins enabling fascinating comparisons between the past and the present.


Module 3: The Basilica of Maxentius

In this module, viewers can experience the final civic building of the Roman Empire before its Christianization, the Basilica of Maxentius. It exhibits 3D reconstructions of the painted marble walls, a 15-meter statue of Constantine, and a Barrel Vaulted ceiling.

Module 4: The Pantheon

As the name suggests, viewers can tour the virtually recreated model of one of Rome’s most famous structures, The Pantheon.

Module 5: The Colosseum District

In this module, viewers can witness the entire district of the Flavian amphitheater, which includes surrounding structures like the Colossus of the Sun, The Meta Sudans, the Temple of Venus and Rome, the Arch of Constantine, and many more. These structures are showcased by using a free-flowing camera which allows the viewers to see detailed looks of reliefs and other architectural features.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this module is that it also enables the reconstructed underground chambers of the Colosseum.

Tools for digital construction of Rome Reborn:

Pascal Mueller, a digital modeler, initiated the recreation of Rome with procedural city modeling. Currently though, Rome Reborn is powered by Unity, which is a gaming engine, along with software 3ds Max for modeling and Reality capture for photogrammetry. The approximate cost of Rome Reborn, since its inception in 1996, has reached 3 billion dollars.

In conclusion, Rome Reborn’s ultimate goal is to digitally preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of these historic cities and create an immersive experience through an “integrated digital universe” where viewers can experience virtual environments to learn more about the past.

“That’s the idea, making history something you can study by taking virtual field trips and interacting with NPCs who are your cultural informants. And I want to see that done all over the world”, states Dr. Frischer on using this ever-evolving realm of virtual reality for digital reconstruction and preservation of the past.

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Estefania was very kind and professional to work with. A little difficult for the different local times to work with different artists but they put great effort to sort the problems out but it could end up with some delays. All the renders were very good in the end. thanks again

Pasquale Pinto
Redfish Design