Virtual reality still needs a lot of work, but it has an incredible amount of potential. I wrote in an earlier blog about how Google changed the VR game by developing a platform that used cheap cardboard and the user’s phone to create an experience comparable to more expensive VR units.

Now, a museum in Rome has painstakingly developed VR software to show visitors what ancient ruins looked like back in their prime.  At the Domus Aurea (Golden House), the opulent home of the Emperor Nero, archaeologists have worked to virtually rebuild every aspect of the ancient palace.

From the CBS News report by correspondent Seth Doane:

“Nothing is invented, nothing is invented; every part of the reconstruction has a scientific base,” said Raffaele Carlani, an architect and graphic designer whose company, KatatexiLux, painstakingly created the virtual reality show.

“And you recognize from this shape, this really strange shape here,” Carlani said.

“So you go back to these Renaissance paintings to recreate what this looked like,” Doane said.

“Yes,” Carlani replied.

“And then transition to here digitally,” Doane said, pointing to the recreation on a computer.

It’s Italy, so of course his studio has its own frescoed ceiling. Working from the town of Amelia, outside Rome, designers used the graphically-rich technology of video games to virtually transport tourists inside the ancient Domus Aurea, to see its grandeur, colorful marble, and sweeping views of Rome.

The possibilities for this type of learning experience are essentially limitless. While I would still hope that people take off their virtual reality headsets long enough to appreciate the actual ruins, VR could help people become more interested in ancient civilizations, and to connect with the past more. Eventually, I’d love to see this offered somewhere like the Colosseum or the Roman Forum, where it can be difficult to visualize the brilliant colors and the bustling streets. This could even be a useful way to preserve existing sites as they are for future generations.

Full video of the CBS News report on this innovation below: