How to explore ancient monuments with Yorescape
Tools like Google Earth and Street View are great fun. They allow you to see familiar places from new perspectives and allow you to virtually visit all new places. But if you really want to experience the world, you’ll want to go back in time – and the programs mentioned can’t do that.
Flyover Zone is a “virtual tourism company” that digitally reconstructs world history sites in 360-degree virtual environments. They’ve been there for a while now, but a platform and app system called Yorescape collects all of their content and publishes it in one place.
How to get started with Yorescape
To use Yorescape, you need to create an account, which is quick, easy, and free. Simply create a username and password and provide an email. If you’re comfortable with your desk, that’s fine; you can stream Yorescape content to desktop through your browser without any app downloads.
However, if you want to view Yorescape on a mobile device, you will need a light app download.
To download: Yorescape for Android | iOS (Free)
Aside from hardware portability, there are no clear advantages to using the mobile app over the desktop version. It would be cool if moving your phone or walking around while holding it helped you navigate immersive spaces, but it doesn’t work that way. But we’ll talk more about using Yorescape in a bit.
Another quick note on how not to use Yorescape. It is not compatible with immersive web browsers like the Oculus browser. As cool as dropping into a virtual version of Athens in VR, it’s not (yet) possible.
Where to go first?
At the time of writing in August 2022, there are nine “tours” you can take virtually with Yorescape:
- The Acropolis in Athens
- Rome, with comprehensive Pantheon and Forum tours
- The temples of Baalbek
- Hadrian’s Villa Stadium Garden
- The Red Chapel of Hatshepsut and the Tomb of Ramses in Egypt
- Tenochtitlan in Mesoamerica
Note that each of these virtual tours consists of several 360 degree scenes called “stops”. For example, the Forum has 77 stops. Each stop is a 360-degree photo or virtually reconstructed environment accompanied by an audio tour provided by an expert on the time and place you have chosen to learn.
Don’t be intimidated by the number of stops. While it’s true that most tours last between one and three hours, most stops only last a few minutes. Yorescape keeps track of which ones you’ve visited, so it’s easy to pick up a tour where you left off if you don’t have time to complete it all in one sitting.
How to use the platform
Once logged in, all available tours are represented by thumbnails on an easy-to-use homepage. If you have current visits, these appear at the top. Tours are grouped by their location in the world. For example, tours to Egypt are grouped together, and so are tours to Rome.
When you see a tile you’re interested in, select it to open a brief description. If this is the tour you want to take, select Start the virtual tour. Remember that you can run multiple tours at the same time and there is no penalty for starting a tour and not completing it. So, it should be a fairly stress-free decision.
All locations have an introductory stop. The narrator introduces himself and gives some basic information about the location and type of information covered.
Click and drag with your mouse or trackpad to navigate scenes, or simply swipe on a mobile device. You can also zoom in and out by pinching the touchpad or phone screen, or with the scroll wheel of a mouse. You’re stationary in each scene, so you don’t have to worry about navigation tools.
If you are on Desk, wiggle your mouse, or brush your trackpad to show menu icons in a scene. On a mobile device, just tap the screen.
Menu icons allow you to change your settings, exit the scene, access additional information, view time intervals, and jump to different scenes in the tour. There are a few other things you can do, but we’ll stick to these basic commands to get started.
From the icon toolbar at the top of the screen, select the gear icon to open the settings menu. From here you can change the menu and broadcast languages. You can also turn subtitles on and off and change the subtitle language.
You can also change the streaming quality to improve graphics performance or compromise graphics performance to reduce latency on a metered connection. Finally, you can toggle a disturbing content warning. Because sometimes history can be uncomfortable.
Click on the map icon to see the full tour map. This puts different parts of the tour in a different visual context, but it’s also how you navigate between scenes in a tour. The scenes are numbered so you can watch them in the suggested order, but you can also skip if certain areas and ideas interest you more than others.
Click on the I to access more information about an individual scene. This includes textual information, but also additional photographs and other media. When the tour guide mentions this content, it will say so. However, you should still check the information section for each section; this will ensure you get everything.
Some scenes have a special button in the upper right corner with others. It looks like stars, and by tapping on it, it runs a time lapse. These moving interactions transform a scene from a modern photograph into a digitally rendered historical reconstruction and back again.
More to explore with Yorescape
There is much more to do and see with Yorescape. Hopefully that’s all you need to start exploring some of the world’s greatest historic sites in new and exciting ways. Even if you can’t travel somewhere in real life and weren’t born in their prime era of use, you shouldn’t miss the experience altogether.