Ambitious VR Project Restores 1964 Tokyo With Real Images

by Jamie Feltham • February 28th, 2019

The absence of Terminators in 2019 means VR is probably the closest we’re going to get to time travel. But how do we ensure trips to our past are as accurate as possible? NHK Enterprises (NEP) and Rhizomatiks have one idea.

The pair this week announced a new project set to showcase at SXSW next month. Simply named The Time Machine, it will allow audiences to travel back to 1964 Tokyo. Crucially, the Japanese capital has been recreated not through interpretation but by using actual pictures of the city taken from that year. The aim is to provide photo-accurate 3D renditions of sites around Tokyo. Check out the trailer below.

We’ve seen this process, named photogrammetry, used in VR before. It’s being utilized to preserve historic artifacts, for example. But this is the first time we’ll have seen images from the past used to allow people to step back in time. That means that the world you see will be in black and white.

Using an HTC Vive, viewers will find themselves standing at the iconic Shibuya Scramble Intersection in the present day. They’ll then travel back to 1964, visiting sites like Hachiko statue at Shibuya’s JR Train Station, the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan (Tokyo Cultural Center) and Miyamasu-zaka Hill.

Produced by Toshio Tsuchiya, the piece is a part of celebrations leading up to Tokyo’s 2020 Summer Olympics. The games were last held in Tokyo in, you guessed it, 1964.

The Time Machine will be up and running from March 10th – 13th at the Austin Convention Center.

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