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Immersive Illusion: Where Startup and History Meet

P-ton Home Rodinia | Stay2Discover Immersive Illusion: Where Startup and History Meet

Westartups like to paint ourselves as something completely new, totally different. But “the next big thing” isn’t always synonymous with “new” – we simply catch the right moment in time, with the right technology, and build something that seems obvious in hindsight – a natural “next step” in a legacy that has been unfolding for a long time.

Rodinia is the same. Is there anything like us out there, a full 360-degree immersion in other cultures paired with fine dining and an emotional event experience? Nope! And yet…

It’s not the first time someone has created a 360-degree visual illusion to immerse people in another place. Even lighting and sound was manipulated, props set up, entry charged. I’m talking about a revolutionary type of spectacle, an accessible illusion, an immersive experience designed to blur the line at the edge of reality: panoramic painting. Sounds a tad academic, I know, but hear me out – it’s vital to where Rodinia comes from, and it’s why we’ll be a hit.

Ever thought about where the panorama setting on your phone’s camera came from?

While the earliest panoramas are actually Chinese scroll paintings, large-scale immersive panoramas (aka cycloramas) emerged in the 18th-19th centuries in Britain. These were massive, lifelike representations of places or events displayed in specially designed buildings. Panoramas reflected changing times: interest in seeing the world, experiencing spectacle, and blurring the lines of reality with new technology. Plus, they were a kind of pop phenomenon, accessible to viewers without much education or wealth.

This modern display of a panorama includes lighting design and a staged diorama in front of the curved painting. The Painting and Diorama Seen From Above, National Parks Gallery.

Despite controversy (I won’t go into that here), the idea grew to take on new forms: dioramas followed, eventually leading to – you guessed it – photography and film. You know Louis Daguerre, creator of the daguerreotype and one of the fathers of photography? Yep, he had experience in panoramas and created the diorama too!

So, not only was the panorama a unique moment of interest in other places, new perspectives, and growing interest in spectacular and immersive experiences, it also represents a base from which technologies we now take for granted got their start.

Cycloramas in their specially designed buildings were an exciting attraction. Cyclorama Building. Battle of Gettysburg. Tremont Street, 1855-1895. Boston Public Library.

Inheriting this legacy

Which brings us back to Rodinia. We are the next step in this story, 200 years later: finally with the technology to create a fully immersive experience of all five senses. We transport our guests completely via 360-degree panoramic film, fine dining, immersive sound, specially designed scents, and physical immersion through interior design.

Rendering of Rodinia’s dining room with panoramic film screen.

As during panoramic paintings’ heyday, our world is becoming ever smaller and faster; we are interested in new types of experience, immersion and illusion, and we want to see more of our world. So, just as panoramas often featured land and cityscapes, we celebrate the world’s diversity with full sensory immersion in its vibrant destinations and cultures. And then? Panoramas moved from picturing landscapes to events like battles and biblical scenes. While we’re unlikely to recreate the Battle of Hastings in 360 degrees anytime soon, who knows what will come next? From outer space or the deep ocean, we might show sports events, gaming, or even music and film! Not to mention what technological developments it could inspire…

We keep coming back to good ideas

Often we don’t even truly understand where an idea comes from, or that the inspiration behind it might already have existed for hundreds of years. But isn’t that just the sign of an idea worth pursuing? Clearly, immersive experiences of the world are something we’re looking for.

We’ve tried many ways – from painting to photography, from film to AR and VR. Media immersion of one type or another seems so normal to us now that we associate it more with the technology than what it aims to convey. We even forget that the word “panorama” hasn’t even been around all that long. It was coined by a painter standing on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill 200 years ago, thinking Now this is an experience worth sharing.

Cross-section of the Panorama Rotunda in Leicester Square (1801) Robert Mitchell. British Library.

Now it’s our turn to focus back on experience. With the latest technologies, a global perspective, and a passion for the vibrant cultures of our world, Rodinia carries the legacy of immersive spectacle into the future. We create an experience unlike any our guests have ever had – something completely new!

Find out more about Rodinia HERE!

Further Reading

Hyde, Ralph

Panoramania! The Art and Entertainment of the ‘All-Embracing’ View. London: Trefoil Publications and Barbican Art Gallery, 1988.

Oettermann, Stephan

Das Panorama. Die Geschichte eines Massenmediums. Frankfurt/ Main: Syndikat Autoren- und Verlagsgesellschaft, 1980.

Thomas, Sophie

“Making Visible: The Diorama, the Double and the (Gothic) subject.” Gothic Technologies: Visuality in the Romantic Era. Edited by Robert Miles. 2005. Praxis Series. 31 January 2010.

About Author

Birte Fichter

Project manager

Birte Fichter has degrees in Art History and Architectural Conservation from Vassar College and the University of Edinburgh. Her research involving spherical panoramic photography and advanced digital imaging of monuments sparked an interest in how technology can contribute to a deeper experience of place. This and her background in theatrical design and stage management (as well as a passion for culture, food and travel) come into play at Rodinia, where she produces experiences poised between technology, entertainment, and the arts.

Immersive Illusion: Where Startup and History Meet | P-ton