New app lets you travel back in time Timelooper co-founder Andrew Feinberg looks through a Google cardboard virtual reality headset across from the Tower of London in London, England. The Timelooper app allows users to experience key moments in London history with just a smartphone and a cardboard headset. (AP Photo)
New app lets you travel back in time
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Imagine watching frantic shopkeepers busily extinguish the Great Fire of London, or sheltering from Nazi bombing raids during the Blitz.
 
Now, thanks to a virtual reality app, you can travel back in time to be immersed in these events.
 
The Timelooper app allows users to experience key moments in London history with just a smartphone and a cardboard headset.
 
For example, when Timelooper cofounder Andrew Feinberg visits the Tower of London, the historic castle on the banks of London's Thames River, he doesn't line up with hordes of tourists to catch a glimpse of the royal family's crown jewels. Instead, he uses Timelooper's time travel tourism app to experience the tower over 750 years ago, in 1255.
 
Instead of seeing a busy London tourist site, Feinberg sees a medieval marketplace, a formidable fortress, even an elephant being led down a path.
 
"We actually overlay the current infrastructure with what the infrastructure of the tower and the surrounding environment was like in 13th century London," explained Feinberg. "So for example, now you see a Starbucks and now you see the tower as it looks today with the moat drained. When we take you back in time, you actually see the historically accurate representation of the tower in its heyday."
 
Not far away at St. Paul's Cathedral, Timelooper users travel back to the Great Fire of London 350 years ago, in 1666. The fire burned for four days, destroying more than 13,000 houses.
 
The smartphone's built-in motion detection allows time travelers wearing a cardboard headset to move their gaze around the virtual world, seemingly exploring London centuries ago. The videos are location-based, meaning visitors must visit the sites to unlock the historical experiences.
 
Feinberg and his cofounder, Yigit Yigiter, were frustrated with current tourism technology, which they say hasn't evolved much since the introduction of audio guides. In 2014, Yigiter's wife brought home a Google cardboard VR headset, and he began thinking about an immersive virtual reality tourism experience. By September 2015, he'd quit his job in private equity and moved to the British capital to begin work on the first incarnation of the app. The first version was launched in July 2015 and featured three sites.
 
While Timelooper uses VR to offer a unique historical perspective, the technology has been exploding in many directions throughout the tourism industry. Carnival Cruise Line uses it to market cruises, the Dollywood theme park in Tennessee uses it to show off a new rollercoaster and the Seattle Space Needle uses it to help visitors appreciate the view from its sky-high observatory. The Dali Museum in Florida created a virtual reality experience that lets visitors walk through a landscape painting by Salvador Dali. And a company called YouVisit has created over 300 VR experiences for destinations from Vatican City to Mexico.
 
Timelooper is a member of the Travel Tech Lab, an incubator space for travel technology start-ups, partly created by London & Partners, the city's official promotional company. Following the launch last year, Feinberg and Yigiter were contacted by destinations from China to Spain.
 
"Nothing replaces the experience of being on site, but you don't always know what the stories are about those sights," Yigiter said.
 
Timelooper's travel app is also used by those working in London's booming tourism industry. Blue Badge tourist guide Ruth Polling pulls her cardboard headset out as she escorts visitors to Trafalgar Square and lets them see what happened on Sept. 23, 1940, when a bomb dropped by Nazi Germany exploded near Nelson's Column, a famous landmark and iconic part of the victory celebrations held five years later to mark the end of the war in Europe.
 
"My job is a storyteller," Polling said. "I'm here to conjure up what things are like and this just gives me something else I can use, particularly with small children, getting them really engaged."
 
London landmarks are also finding Timelooper's VR experience useful in giving a new-age twist to a decades-old attraction. The Thames River's 120-year-old Tower Bridge is set to launch its own Timelooper experience in April, taking visitors back to 1666, before the bridge was even built. Instead, headset wearers view the raging Great Fire of London from a boat's crow's nest as it sails down the river.
 
"When you're here at the bridge, you are told a story of how things were but you can't physically see that," says Chris Earlie, the head of Tower Bridge. The app also helps immerse international visitors into the story without "translating endless amount of text."
 
Timelooper plans to launch in New York City this April, allowing tourists to witness the famous kiss that was photographed in Times Square in August 1945 on VJ Day, the day World War II officially ended with the surrender of Japan, and to see the iconic picture of workers eating lunch atop a skyscraper during construction of the Rockefeller Center in 1932.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why doesn't the Timelooper app allow you to see into the future?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (49)
  • ryanh-ver
    3/25/2016 - 07:57 p.m.

    This app is great but how do they know where everything was at that exact place and time?

  • justinl2-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:10 a.m.

    With the creation of new technology we can use it in order to apply it to learning. For example, the new trend of Oculus rifts or Google cardboard allow the user to experience things like never before. It puts the viewer in first person and it feels like you're actually there. It is an entertaining and interesting way in order to see new things.

  • samuels2-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:16 a.m.

    All you need is one of those telephone box thingies as a phone case and what do you know? You're Dr. Who now! I guess he's not so special anymore. The again, he can go into the future...

  • arielj1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:17 a.m.

    The Timelooper app essentially utilizes history to our advantage. Events that have already occurred are available to be experienced by people of the present. But as great as the technology is, there are limitations. If an event hasn't occurred yet, such as those in the future, it's nearly impossible to witness until it occurs.

  • ivannac2-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:18 a.m.

    I believe that the timelooper app can not allow us to see into the future because it hasn't happened yet. We can make predictions, but we still cant see the future.

  • shawnj1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:21 a.m.

    Virtual reality has been a dream for decades now but this has now turned into a real life usable object. This has happened by using VR goggles and phones with show a screen that you can interact with by walking, talking, and using your hands as weapons. This is very neat invention and hopefully it gets noted and better and better.

  • ians2-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:23 a.m.

    This technology is so cool! The potential applications are extraordinary! Think of the applications for PTSD patients or people with other disorders which effect their perception of time, they could be momentous!

  • sunils1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 08:58 a.m.

    The Timelooper app doesn't allow for one to see into the future because of the fact that the technology is based on the past. Additionally, the creators or anyone outside the making of this amazing app cannot see into the future, therefore rendering it impossible to develop a "future mode". As stated in the article, the technology takes present day places, such as a Starbucks, and turns it into past experiences such as replacing the Starbucks with a rustic building of sorts.

  • tatianam1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 09:07 a.m.

    this is actually kinda cool to be able to experience london as it was many years ago all through a app. technology is amazing an it continues to expand helping us go deeper in depth with history. the fact that you could actually time travel with a phone an a headset is lit.

  • christopherf1-pay
    3/28/2016 - 09:17 a.m.

    I believe this app is pretty neat, considering the fact that this generation can use it to take a peek into what things were like in the past. Perhaps the creators should apply this app to places other than London.

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