Fabien Barati, head of the Emissive company which created the expedition "Eternal Notre-Dame" presented at La Défense
Fabien Barati is the head of Emissive, a company specialising in immersive technologies, which offers visits to heritage sites through life-size virtual expeditions. We spoke with him about the Immersive Expedition Eternal Notre-Dame, currently at La Défense, and Mona Lisa: beyond the glass, presented on IFdigital, which is the first virtual reality experience at the Louvre.
Updated on 18/05/2022
With your partner, Emmanuel Guerriero, you founded Emissive in 2005. What was your background before that and how did you become interested in VR?
I studied multimedia, which taught me how to conceptualise and create real-time 3D experiences. These techniques are normally used for video games, but they can be applied to other fields of creation. With Emmanuel Guerriero, who studied in the same field, we soon created Emissive, a company specialised in immersive experiences in virtual and augmented realities.
It started as a small company, which we have developed little by little. Based in Paris, we produce everything in-house, from design to deployment, and currently have about 30 employees. We build custom experiences and we began by responding to the varied needs of different clients, including institutions and private companies. Today, our activity is divided into two parts: on the one hand, an agency, in many sectors including the luxury sector, and on the other hand, Immersive Expeditions, virtual reality experiences that allow people to discover heritage sites in a new and fun way.
The company Orange recently asked you to create the Immersive Expedition Eternal Notre-Dame, which offers a dive into the heart of Notre-Dame Cathedral. Can you tell us about this project?
The principle of the Immersive Expeditions that we develop is to make people discover our heritage in a unique way using virtual reality. These experiences, which last about 45 minutes, are to be enjoyed in groups, accompanied by friends and family. They are presented in very large, dedicated spaces, which allows the public, equipped with VR headsets, to physically move over great distances. Ultra-realistic, they propel visitors into the heart of heritage, an era, a work or a monument. Real adventures that combine sensations and education.
The first of these expeditions, Eternal Notre-Dame, was produced by Orange and is currently running at La Défense. With this expedition, the audience plunges into the heart of Notre-Dame from the 13th to the 21st century and discovers the cathedral's secrets, meets its iconic characters and admires its masterpieces.
How did you come to develop these new visitor experiences?
We had previously worked, in partnership with the Cité de l'architecture, Dassault Systèmes and the HIP Institute, on the ScanPyramids VR experience, which allowed visitors to walk around the Pyramid of Cheops on the Giza plateau in true size, accompanied by a tour guide. The experience was a great success and we wanted to expand this type of experience even further by developing Immersive Expeditions. We are working on a new Immersive Expedition to discover the Great Pyramid.
The Pyramid of Giza, like Notre Dame Cathedral, is known throughout the world and has universal scope, which is ideal for this type of format. We want to offer projects that are large in scale but still accessible to all.
What are the challenges of this type of experience, both in terms of production and public outreach?
Our current aim is to create new Immersive Expeditions, on different themes, in partnership with cultural institutions. We then try to deploy these formats as much as possible throughout the world. The great strength of these expeditions is that they can accommodate large flows of visitors, nearly five hundred per day, which is very rare in the field of virtual reality.
We try to make it as simple as possible, both for the visitors and for the operators, who are very sensitive to issues of accessibility. Visitors act as they would in real life, using their bodies, naturally. They simply have to move around or interact with each other. We create a group dynamic.
Our experiences are really for everyone: children, the very old, and people with reduced mobility. Everyone can travel back in time and meet historical figures, as if they were there. The challenge is to manage a large flow of visitors, while maintaining the quality of the experience.
Immersive Expeditions also help to preserve our heritage, as part of the revenue goes back to the institutions: for example, in the case of Eternal Notre-Dame and thanks to Orange, the revenue is contributing to the reconstruction of Notre-Dame.
You also produced a more intimate experience, Mona Lisa - Beyond the Glass, which the public was able to discover at the Louvre Museum.
It was a project that accompanied the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, funded by the virtual reality headset manufacturer HTC as part of their Vive Arts programme. One of the challenges of this exhibition was that the painting, which is obviously still on display in the museum, was not included in the exhibition itself. So Mona Lisa - Beyond the Glassacted as a complement, allowing us to meet the Mona Lisa in a virtual environment. The idea was to find out more about her, to understand how the painting was produced, etc. It is an experience of about twelve minutes, the aim of which is to create an emotional link with the painting, to make us want to go and see it again, and to look at it in a different way. The curators of the Louvre were in charge of the project and we tried to meet their needs as best we could. This experience is now available for free on the main virtual reality content distribution platforms.
What are your upcoming projects?
We are looking to build our network of distribution and venues, while creating several new Immersive Expeditions. We have three in the pipeline: one that is almost finished, and two others where discussions are very advanced. In each case, our ambition remains to create a new form of cultural entertainment!
Mona Lisa: Beyond the glass, produced by Emissive, is part of Culture VR: la sélection, a varied offering that showcases the best of French creation in virtual reality intended for distribution within the facilities of the French cultural network abroad or its partners.
Emissive also developped the VR experience The Enemy, presented on the “VR Immersive Experiences” catalogue, which references a selection of original works at the crossroads of virtual reality, live performance and visual arts. The aim of this catalogue is to make these new forms of shows and exhibitions discoverable, to facilitate their exploitation by cultural and entertainment venues around the world, and thus to contribute to the development of a market for this emerging sector.
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