A virtual reality experience designed to immerse museum visitors in history

What is VRMuseum?

We created a virtual reality experience around a 3,000 year old Assyrian palace in Nimrud, Iraq. Parts of the palace are on exhibit at major museums such as the British Museum and the Louvre, making the palace known worldwide. We added components to make the museum model into an interactive experience by adding an audio guide as well as environment features. We gratefully acknowledge the technical advice and data provided by Donald Sanders and Learning Sites, Inc.


Who worked on the project:

Project idea

The goal of this project is to provide an immersive virtual tour of the palace of King Ashurnasapal. The user will be able to explore the palace virtually by walking around the rooms and interacting with various objects. An accurate 3D model will be provided to us by Prof. Kesh. At the time of this writing only the king’s room is available so this project will focus on that one room, however we will design it to be easily extensible to the entire palace. There are two modes of the project. The first is learning mode, which gives the user an authentic experience of visiting the palace during the time of the king. The authentic experience will include historically accurate events, including a servant escorting the visitor to the king’s throne and authentic lighting in the palace. The second mode, learning mode, will allow the user to interact with objects and hear info about them. For example, if one icon is now in the Louvre, the user will be able to go up to that icon and hear about its current standing in the Louvre.


This project would be very interesting from a VR experience. One of the great capabilities of VR is to make the user feel like they are present somewhere else, and our project would accomplish this but also would give them the chance to experience an environment that they would never get to experience in real life.

Another great capability of VR is to educate people, and our project would educate users by explaining historical facts about the palace. We do not believe there are any VR experiences involving Oculus in any museums, which gives us a good opportunity to be the first in this field.


As far as we know, no museum currently has a virtual reality exhibit in it. This would be the first virtuality reality project designed to be placed as an interactive exhibit for a museum, which is exciting!

Because of this novelty, we had to design the user experience in a new way. One of the challenges we faced was how to show users that an object could be interacted with. After testing multiple methods, we went with the approach of highlighting the object only when a user looked in its direction, and only playing the audio when the user got close enough. This provided an immersive experience without distracting the user.

What we added

Audio guide experience: Audios were taped for some important parts of the palace and when users go close to those parts, they will hear the introduction to them.

Interactive Experience: As the user moves through the palace, they can look around and see a yellowish glow appear around certain objects. This indicates to the user that this object as an interactive element. As the user approaches such an object, audio will start that provides background information on the object, and supplementary pictures will appear nearby. For example, from the audio, the user will hear how the lamassu piece was excavated to the British Museum, and pictures from the excavation will appear on the wall

Changes to lighting conditions and flames: The lightings are adjusted to be closer to what it was in the actual palace. Oil lamps were added with shadows.

Historical mode animation: A historical mode was added so that user will follow the attendant to the front of the palace and get permission to visit the palace.

Technical Challenges

Video Demos