Questions for Email Interviews with Bernard, 2022
By TammyJo Eckhart, PhD
TammyJo Eckhart: Welcome to another interview with Flyover Zone Founder and President Bernard Frischer. Thank you, Bernie, for answering my questions and giving us some insight into the company and what members of our Yorescape community can expect going forward.
The global pandemic that began in 2020 has changed a lot of our lives, bringing more of us online. In our previous interview, we talked about how few people knew about the concept of virtual tourism, but now, in 2022, there are news articles about it coming out regularly. Flyover Zone has been ready for this change for years, so let’s talk about how our products tap into that growing market.
First, during 2021 Flyover Zone developed some new virtual tours. Would you describe what sites will be presented?
Bernard Frischer: In 2021, we worked on the following new virtual tours which we will be releasing in June 2022: “Athens Reborn: Acropolis,” “Great Monuments of Egypt: Red Chapel of Hatshepsut,” “Great Monuments of Egypt: Tomb of Ramesses VI,” “Mesoamerica Reborn: Tenochtitlan,” and “Rome Reborn: Pantheon (remastered).” We’ve also been hard at work on “Rome Reborn: Baths of Caracalla,” which should be published in fall 2022. Here I should note that all these tours will be made available exclusively on our new Yorescape platform for virtual tourism. We also invested a huge amount of time and effort in developing Yorescape in 2021 and into 2022. The beta version was launched on December 1, 2021. So far, the uptake has been gratifying. Stay tuned for version 1.0, which is scheduled to be launched in June 2022. It will at first support mobile devices and PCs. By late summer, we plan to add support for select VR headsets.
TE: In the past, Flyover Zone was focused primarily on Roman monuments, but 2021 saw apps showing monuments from adjacent cultures. Currently, we have available apps and guided tours from the Roman, Egyptian, and Lebanese worlds. Why expand into Egypt and the Middle East?
BF: Our company’s mission is to present to our followers the great cultural heritage monuments all over the world. So, it is natural that we start to broaden our offerings to include sites outside Rome. We hope within a few years to have at least one site from each of the famous “four corners” of the earth!
TE: On social media, we’ve seen sneak peeks of forthcoming apps and guided tours from ancient Athens. What will be unique to the Flyover Zone programs that we haven’t seen before in documentaries about that city?
BF: That is a good question. I can’t say that I have seen all the documentaries presenting Athens, so I will refrain from answering your question directly. I can say that what makes our tours of the city unique is the same feature that characterizes all our work: we develop the tours in close cooperation with the world’s leading scholars. They help us to make the 3D reconstructions seen on our tours and they also help to write the scripts of the interpretation presented at each stop. In the case of our upcoming virtual tour of the Acropolis, the team was led by a very distinguished expert: Dr. Jenifer Neils, Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and author or co-author of over 15 books about the ancient city. In terms of content, I think it fair to say that our 3D reconstruction is unique in being up-to-date in terms of scholarship and rich in detail. For example, we include inscriptions and many works of sculpture.
TE: Flyover Zone’s guided tours and apps will soon offer more of the world’s greatest monuments and artworks. Can you tell us anything about the plans to look at Mesoamerican and even South American civilizations?
BF: As I mentioned, we’ll be publishing our first virtual tour of Mesoamerica this year. It presents Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital on the site of modern Mexico City. Next year, we will continue with a Maya site.
TE: There has been a Sketchfab collection of 3D models of ancient works of art. The development of a virtual museum on the Flyover Zone website is in development, too. Is there anything you can share with us about that future online museum?
BF: As we speak, we’re hard at work on the complete reorganization of our collection of 3D models of classical sculpture. The collection is presently organized by “format,” that is, by object category such as basins, busts, furniture, herms, statues, statue groups, and statuettes. A new presentation will be launched in June 2022 that uses a spatial metaphor. Members of our community will be able to access a new Virtual Museum. When they do so, they will be greeted by the floor plan of an imaginary museum building which will have wings for each culture we present on our tours. So, we’ll have a Greek wing, a Roman wing, etc. Each wing will have galleries organized by period (for example, in the case of the Greek wing: Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic). Off the galleries are rooms with large collections of related objects. For example, off the Classical Greek gallery will be a room presenting the metopes from the Parthenon. We will also have a temporary exhibition gallery with a new show every couple of months.
TE: Flyover Zone has also been working with museums to help bring works into the VR world for all of us who can’t afford to travel to see everything. Would you share with us some of the museums you’ve worked with so far and when we might see those pieces in their 3D glory?
BF: Our major museum partner thus far has been the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, the repository of the spectacular finds brought to light in excavations on the Bay of Naples since the 18th century. The first fruit of this collaboration will be “Rome Reborn: Baths of Caracalla.” In that tour, we recontextualize the Farnese sculptures, now in the museum, within the Baths of Caracalla, where they were found. If all goes well, the virtual tour will be available in fall 2022.
TE: Originally, Flyover Zone was focused on the ancient Roman world, but now there are plans to develop apps that will allow us to look at marvels from the Renaissance as well. What can you share with us about those projects?
BF: We have signed a contract to publish in Yorescape three remarkable late Gothic and Renaissance monuments in Italy: the “Capella Maggiore” of the cathedral in Arezzo, with Piero della Francesca’s fresco cycle presenting the Legend of the True Cross; the Scrovegni (“Arena”) Chapel in Padua decorated with Giotto’s fresco showing the lives of Mary and Christ; and the Allegory of Good and Bad Government by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in Siena’s Palazzo Pubblico. This deal is interesting not only because it extends our coverage into post-antique times but also because it illustrates how Yorescape can become a publication outlet for high-quality content developed by third parties.
TE: Everyone in the company is excited about Yorescape, but in the simplest of terms, how would you describe it?
BF: In simplest terms, Yorescape is a digital application tailored to meet the specific needs of virtual tourism. It allows individuals to navigate around a site using a map, to hear expert commentary at each stop on a tour (using Closed Captions, if they wish), to get background information in an Information window, and to freely roam around the site and go wherever their curiosity leads them. Individuals can also band together and take a group tour, seeing the same things, talking and texting to one another, and pointing to various features of interest. Yorescape runs on mobile devices, PCs, and (later this year) on select VR headsets.
TE: Right now, people can be part of the beta testing of Yorescape. I’ve tried it myself. Where can people find more information about getting into the beta test and how to sign up for that service once it is live for everyone?
BF: It’s easy. Just go to www.yorescape.com.
TE: May we get a bit personal for a moment? Which project are you most excited about for Flyover Zone’s future?
BF: I am most excited about Yorescape. This innovative app will not only allow us to publish more tours, to update them more quickly when desirable, and to offer qualified third parties a publication outlet for their own virtual tours, but it will also help us to build a community of followers. We plan to engage our community in events such as getting together in front of the colossal statue of Athena in the Parthenon to hear an expert interpret it or meeting with Flyover Zone staff to suggest new ideas for virtual tours that the company should consider developing. With Yorescape, Flyover Zone can make direct contact with its followers for the first time since we started offering tours back in 2018. We think this will make us more responsive to our community’s interests and needs and will also give our followers a sense of personal connection with each other and with the Yorescape team.
TE: Thank you for talking with me today, Bernie. There is a lot to look forward to, so I encourage everyone to check out our website (https://www.flyoverzone.com/) and sign up for our newsletter (https://www.flyoverzone.com/subscribe/).