Timelooper: The App That Turns Your Phone Into a Time Machine

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Photo courtesy of Timelooper
Photo courtesy of Timelooper

Why do we love to visit locations with historic significance? Why do we stand in the middle of the Colosseum and imagine gladiators, or walk gingerly across the line where the Berlin Wall once stood, or gaze in awe at Stonehenge?

Because in our minds, we’re LARPing! Our eyes glaze over and we become part of the scene. We imagine that we are those gladiators desperately fighting wild animals to the roars of the maniacal crowd. Standing at the site of a significant moment in history, we slip back in time in our minds.

But what if we didn’t have to rely on our imaginations to experience noteworthy events in history when we travel? What if we could effectively travel back through time to see what happened at the very spot where we stand?

The new app, Timelooper, will do just that. Stand at a specific historic location, set your phone into a simple cardboard virtual reality headset, and Timelooper will overlay your view with video of “the most memorable moments” that occurred at that place.

This “location-based time travel app” allows you to experience The Great Fire of London in 1666 as you stand in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, or watch citizens run for cover during the Blitz (specifically, on September 23, 1940) as you stand in Trafalgar Square. As you turn your head, you will see every detail of that momentous day. Standing in front of the Tower of London, the moat fills, the Starbucks disappears, and 13th century London appears before you, complete with a medieval market and an elephant being led down a lane.

While wearing the headset, users can turn slowly to explore the landscape around them, utilizing the phone’s motion detection software. No longer will imaginative tourists be forced to pretend that Starbucks isn’t gleaming in the sun in front of them; with Timelooper, it disappears. Instead of straining to remember details we once read about historic events, we can relive them as we stand where they occurred.

The app’s developers cleverly use green screens, actors, props, and visual effects to enhance the 360-degree videos they provide at each site. The app is location-based, and can only be activated when the user is physically standing at the historic locale. Videos may be downloaded anywhere there is an internet connection, and unlocked on site. Once a video is unlocked, it lives permanently on the phone, becoming part of a “virtual historic library.” For those travelers without a virtual reality headset, Timelooper will also work if the phone is held horizontally and moved slowly in a 360-degree circle around the point where the person is standing.

Timelooper has just begun to launch its cutting-edge “time travel tourism” app. Currently, users can experience history at four locations in London and one at Ephesus in Turkey, but coming soon are videos for a wide range of locations all over the world, including China, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Spain, Washington D.C., and New York City. In April, users will be able travel back in time to view the famous kiss between the WWII soldier and nurse in Times Square that marked V-J Day, and the famed shot of construction workers eating lunch on the skeleton of a skyscraper in 1932 as Rockefeller Center was built, along with five other historic events.

The Timelooper app is free and available at the iTunes store. VR headsets are available at various locations near the historic sites featured in the app.

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