In creating the media installation *Millionenzimmer* (“million room”), the Ars Electronica Futurelab has attempted to restage the Schönbrunn experience in a virtual environment. The aim was to create a mobile representation of a part of the imperial palace in Vienna and thereby provide a transportable glimpse of Austrian culture.
At the same time, this pilot project has been able to set new standards for the digital conservation of irreplaceable, priceless cultural objects that comprise an important part of the nation’s precious cultural heritage. With this mission in mind, pioneering 3D software was developed to produce the graphic representations, and the latest techniques from the field of real-time computer graphics (like Pixelshader etc.) were implemented. Beyond the pure visualization of the historical setting, research work for the development of the virtual counterpart concentrated on the reconstruction of an authentic impression of this space.
The name of the original *Millionenzimmer* in Vienna’s Schönbrunn Palace is derived from the room’s wall paneling—extraordinarily opulent even in this magnificent context—and its rare Indian-Persian miniatures. Making it possible for visitors to a virtual environment to experience the artistic and material quality was one of the challenges that the Ars Electronica Futurelab staffers faced in visualizing this historical cultural treasure. Throughout the project, engineers used highest resolution digital technology ranging from laser scanning to meticulously created photographic material. This made it possible for the final visualization to depict all miniatures larger than life-size and in ultra-close-up. If one compares the density of information available during an average tourist’s visit to the *Millionenzimmer* with that of a viewing of its virtual counterpart, then the simulation comes out on top. Tourists who take the guided tour through Schönbrunn Palace are, of course, limited by gravity to an inspection of the portions of the walls down near floor level; furthermore, in consideration of these priceless works of art, a passageway demarcated by velvet ropes keeps tour-group participants at a distance from the walls. Even so, these precautions do not really trouble most tourists since the usual purpose of a general guided tour through these sumptuous interiors is to get a whiff of the atmosphere of the imperial residence—to have “been there, done that,” so to speak. The (digital) replica cannot hold a candle to the historicity and authenticity of these centuries-old imperial rooms; nevertheless, having “taken a stroll” through the virtual *Millionenzimmer* means having experienced the superb quality that has been achieved by this project, and that is, at the very least, a comparably thrilling experience.