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The Darkest Night in virtual reality: Artanim marvels and reinvents tradition

In the discreet panorama of the end of the lake, the Artanim Foundation, home of the Dreamscape Immersive company that delights visitors with virtual reality (VR) experiences, is reinventing one of the city’s most emblematic traditions: the Night of the Escalade. This spectacular virtual reality experience, which fuses Geneva’s historical heritage with technological marvels, marks a new chapter in the way we interact with history.

Eternally in love with its Geneva roots, Artanim set about this ambitious project in 2022. Recreating the night of the Escalade, a historic event at the very heart of Geneva’s identity, was no mean feat. This initiative is certainly a technological feat, but it is also a true celebration of the meeting of tradition and innovation.

Immersion and Education: Reliving History

“The Darkest Night”, the VR experience available at the Dreamscape centre in Confédération Centre from Saturday 9 December 2023, is more than just a re-enactment; it’s a total immersion in a key moment in history that has fed the collective imagination for over 400 years. When you put on your VR headset, you won’t be a spectator. You will become a part of history, living and feeling the events of that fateful night, sometimes marching alongside the Savoyard troops, sometimes wearing the nightgowns of the beleaguered Genevans defending their city. This approach, the fruit of countless hours of production, offers a fresh and deeper perspective on history. What’s more, it’s an approach that has great educational potential, as it makes learning lively and dynamic. Imagine being able to smell the gunpowder or the horse pulling your virtual carriage!

Innovation at the service of heritage

Artanim’s Darkest Night project is an exemplary example of how technology can work in harmony with tradition. This VR experience is not just a testimony to the past; it’s a bridge to the future, showing how contemporary innovations can enrich our understanding and appreciation of cultural heritage to preserve it better. Today, Artanim is opening a new chapter in historical storytelling, inviting everyone to experience the past in a completely new and deeply immersive way. So perish the enemies of the Republic!

The roots of Artanim and the birth of Dreamscape

Since its creation and over time, the Artanim Foundation, set up by Caecilia Charbonnier, Clémentine Lo and Sylvain Chagué, has established itself as a key player in the field of motion capture. Initially focused on medical and biomechanical applications, such as reconstruction and personalised 3D simulation in sports medicine and orthopaedics, Artanim has adopted a not-for-profit model in the spirit of university research laboratories, supported by research funds.

In 2015, the emergence of virtual reality headsets, notably with Oculus, marked a turning point for Artanim, which saw it as a unique opportunity for innovation. The founders quickly realised the potential of combining this technology with their motion capture systems. This combination made it possible to go beyond the traditional constraints of VR. The result was an innovative prototype that enabled two users to see their own bodies and share the same virtual space. In order to move around more freely, Sylvain Chagué developed a backpack equipped with a computer, freeing users from the physical constraints associated with conventional VR systems attached to computers by cables.

That same year, Artanim won a prestigious prize with a stunning experiment in an Egyptian tomb, paving the way for the transformation of this innovative research into a marketable product. The creation of a start-up to raise funds had become obvious. After a year’s intensive search for investors, mainly in the United States, Artanim presented itself at the Sundance Festival. With a demo inspired by the world of “Stargate”, it was a hit and attracted the attention of Dreamscape’s first partners. Convinced by the potential of the technology during a visit to Meyrin, renowned producer Walter Parkes and his partners came on board and wanted to join forces with the team of Swiss entrepreneurs. In 2016, after six months of negotiations, an agreement was reached, leading to a major fund-raising round and the birth of Dreamscape Immersive. This collaboration became a milestone in the success story of Caecilia Charbonnier and her cohorts, opening up previously unimaginable doors and virtual reality centres on three continents.

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