We always have had the desire to go back in time and experience moments of the past. Well, virtual reality (VR) now allows us to live this dream.

A number of start-ups have invested in this concept in order to provide a new type of experience for consumers. A few examples include the Digital Devotion Group and TIMELOOPER. Both companies have developed content to portray specific moments in time in different destinations.

And another successful example is a German start-up based in Cologne, named TimeRide VR. Founded by Jonas Rother, TimeRide VR has developed a time-travel tourism journey through the streets of Cologne in the year 1910.

The experience involves mainly three moments: a) a photo exhibit, b) a cinema, and finally, c) the virtual reality experience. The entire experience lasts nearly 45 minutes.

Here is a promotional video describing the experience:

From a Marketing Perspective, Why Is The “TimeRide VR” Experience Memorable?

There are a series of elements for which TimeRide VR provides a memorable experience for visitors. Here a few examples:

1. Servicescape: The physical environment is carefully designed to support the core virtual experience, delivered at the end of the service. Employees are dressed in uniforms which draws back to early 1900’s, the design of cashier station also resembles an old station and the tram (in which the VR experience is delivered) is visible to everyone at the location with an antique design. 

TimeRide VR Experience
The TimeRide VR tram and a virtual experience (Source: TimeRide VR, Facebook).

2. Gradual technology upgrade: Once visitors arrive, they are shown a map of Cologne in 1909 and antique photos displayed o the wall. This the first actual content which is presented. After a short briefing, visitors are directed to a separate room to watch a short film portraying the history of Cologne and scenes from different moments in time. Only after the video, visitors are led to the tram where the VR experience happens. So the gradual upgrade from photo to video, to VR helps enhance even more the VR experience.

3. Triggering of multiple senses: Once visitors are at the tram, the VR experience includes the expected visual stimulation through the glasses. But also, the glasses includes headphones (the sounds are very important for this particular experience), and touch is also triggered through seat vibrations and air spray which is directed at the visitors.

4. Quality content and storyline: Finally, the most important element which is content. The portrayal of Cologne in 1909 is extremely well done and the level of details is truly impressive. From advertisements of the time on the wall, to products, fashion and even topics that is discussed among the characters that are portrayed (pedestrians and the tram conductor). Moreover, the journey though Cologne has a well-developed storyline which the passenger follows, involving important topics about energy consumption and the use of humour, as for when a drunk man falls on the Rhein river. 

Virtual Reality - Cologne, Germany in 1910
Virtual Representation of Cologne (Germany) in 1910 (Source: timeride.de)

5. Technical quality: One of the main criticisms towards the virtual reality involves technical issues. This is exactly where one of the strengths of TimeRide VR lays. The resolution is very good and truly allows for a great immersion and telepresence feeling. Obviously, is can and will improve with time. The faces of characters, for example, is still not precisely defined, although it does not compromise the experience.  

Jonas Rothe, TimeRide
Jonas Rothe, Founder of TimeRide VR (Source: TimeRide VR, Facebook)

Future Challenges and Innovation

One of the reasons for the quick success of TimeRide VR certainly is the fact that innovation in VR is still striking for consumers. Once a start-up launches a new interesting product, consumers quickly engage, no matter if it is in tourism, education or human resources.

The main challenge however will happen once such innovations reach maturity. Once this happens, which nowadays happens an impressive pace, a new innovative boost is required. So it will be very interesting to see how companies, such as TimeRide VR will act.

There are certainly much room for innovation, as for example:

  • Creating Extended Content: For example, creating tours of Cologne in different decades (Pre-war, 1948 post-war, 1980’s). 
  • Various Lengths of Content: 15min, 25min, 45min virtual immersions. Thus, could enable different types of experiences. 
  • Collaboration with Schools and Universities: Development of historical content for educational purposes.
  • Nearby Destinations: Content creation for nearby cities, capitals. Ideally visitors would virtually visit the destinations they were at, however, often tourists can only visit a limited number of cities during their stay. Providing varied content would also help visitors “feel” as of they had visited more places.
  • Historical Events: Develop content related to specific days where relevant events happened: live concerts or shows, sporting events, political rallies or cultural manifestations.

So there are ways for the industry to react before the current technological concept matures and I am sure this is a concern. But for this stage, while virtual reality has still not reached wide market penetration, such services succeed much due to its novelty.


Though the combination of a great story line portrayed through VR, stimulation of different senses, technical quality, elaborate services cape and service, TimeRide VR has set their mark as a must-see attraction to any visitor in Cologne (Germany).

Moreover, I believe this will be a tourism trend that will develop very quickly: to visit a destination and, while there, visit it also virtually with a service combined. I am absolutely convinced it will also have a very positive impact on the physical visit and will allow tourists to perceive the places they are at very differently.

Can you imagine visiting Liverpool and being able to watch a concert of the Beatles at The Cavern while there? Or watching ceremonies at the Coliseum while visiting Rome?

It will be spectacular.

So whenever you visit Cologne (Germany), do not forget to have an incredible experience at TimeRide VR.