Paris-3DUntil late last year, Dassault Systèmes was not a name I was familiar with. But when we were extended an invitation from them to travel to France to experience their latest creation, Paris 3D, I was fortunate enough to go across the Channel and take a look.

For those equally unfamiliar, the company is a producer of 3D design software and more, creating virtual universes for their clients, in turn allowing them to develop solutions to whatever problems they are working to fix. A company approaches Dassault, describes their unique problem, and Dassault will help them to come up with a solution.

All that might sound fairly straightforward, but when you realise that the company has a history of tackling the impossible, things get a bit more complicated. The projects that they want to take on are the ones that people say can’t be done. And they have the resources to prove otherwise.

Years of work have gone into the development of Paris 3D, and it certainly seems to have been worth it. The goal, from what I can tell, was not driven by commercial value, but that of education. The creators have been working closely with historians throughout the design process to render Paris through the ages in 3D as accurately as humanly possible. And all with the intentions to use it as an educational tool, allowing not just students to have a better look at Paris through the ages, but also teachers and academics.

Soon after arriving at their headquarters, we were treated to a presentation from Mehdi Tayoubi (VP of Digital and Experiential Strategy) and Jean-Marc Leri (Director of the Carnavalet Museum), introducing us to Paris 3D.

The software – immersive and fully interactive – is monument-driven. It takes a slew of monuments across the city – the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, the Arènes de Lutèce, the Bastille – and gives you a riveting look at their development across hundreds and even thousands of years.

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It was the enthusiasm of both Tayoubi and Leri that was so interesting. The creation of this 3D world, this version of one of the world’s most-visited cities through the centuries, was clearly of great importance to them, for the possibilities that it poses to academics are numerous.

For those researching the Bastille and its history, what better way to start and to bounce off ideas than with a visual rendering of it? And not just an image, but a 3D rendering.

As a sceptic of 3D technology, I was a little cautious going into the presentation, not entirely convinced of its benefits nor of the project itself. I’ve never been too taken with 3D films, and find myself in that category of people who get a headache after wearing the glasses for an extended period of time. But I can’t argue that Paris 3D is an immensely impressive feat, and something of a benchmark for the years to come.

Dassault Systèmes presented a live event of Paris 3D late last year to the public, and are allowing the public to experience it through their website – Paris 3D – and through their iPad app, which is currently free!

If you are the proud owner of an iPad, I highly recommend seeking the app out and taking a look at Paris 3D yourself. The software that DS have developed here has an appeal wide enough for all audiences – young and old, in and out of education, native to or living in Paris or not.

After the presentation, we were then treated to a more intimate experience of Paris in three dimensions, getting a look at it first-hand in the multi-projector ‘3D Cave’. And as you can imagine, it didn’t disappoint. When a company like Dassault set their minds to something, it seems there’s nothing they can’t achieve, and Paris 3D is a fine example of that, bringing history to life in a very innovative way.

With a set of 3D glasses in place, I stood in this 3D Cave and was transported to the upper levels of the Eiffel Tower. And contrary to anything I would have previously imagined, I got a feeling of vertigo looking over the edge.

For me, that was really the most impressive part of the whole presentation. They have designed the software with such clarity and precision that it can trick my body into thinking I’m about to fall off the Eiffel Tower when my feet are firmly planted on the ground.

When emerging from the Cave, you can’t help but take in the various posters of achievements and possibilities that Dassault Systèmes have up on their walls. Their slogan on these artworks, ‘If We’, acts like a call to arms. If We set our minds and resources to it, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. Paris 3D is strong evidence that they are constantly striving for innovation, developing new technologies to fill what is lacking in our existing reality. What they’re doing is truly inspirational. And it’s fascinating to know that that kind of work is going on every day, and we remain almost entirely oblivious.

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