The Greek government through a new deal with Microsoft is set to digitally preserve the Ancient Olympia. Microsoft will use artificial intelligence to map the site and augmented reality to help restore the original home of the Olympic Games.
The tie up between the Greek government and Microsoft means that people can tour the site remotely or in person with an augmented-reality mobile app. At the Olympic Museum, in Athens, people can also use HoloLens headsets to overlay a digital version of the site. Basically, the digital revival project allows viewers around the world to explore ancient Olympia as it stood more than 2,000 years ago through an immersive experience via an interactive mobile app, web-based desktop experience or a Microsoft HoloLens 2 exhibition at the Athens Olympic Museum.
The monument will be brought to life in a realistic, engaging way that was never before possible. Microsoft, in a press release, said this new form of digital archiving will continue to offer a portal to another era, helping people understand what humanity has achieved in the past and a reminder of what mankind is capable of today.
Kyriakos Mitsotakis, prime minister of Greece, said the Ancient Olympia: Common Grounds is a unique way of experiencing Greece’s proud cultural heritage. “Visitors around the world can virtually visit the ancient site of Olympia and experience history firsthand using augmented reality technology.” Brad Smith, president and vice-chair, Microsoft, said the project to digitally preserve ancient Olympia is a stunning achievement in cultural heritage, bringing together humanity and cutting-edge technology to benefit the world and empower coming generations with new ways to explore the past.
Lina Mendoni, Hellenic Republic Minister of Culture and Sports said with the digital representation of the Panhellenic sanctuary of Ancient Olympia, its cultural heritage — but also the values of Olympism, peace, harmony, excellence and noble rivalry — becomes accessible to the whole world through the use of state-of-the-art technology. “The digital preservation project, through the use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality technologies, implemented through the cultural sponsorship of Microsoft, promotes and highlights the unique and emblematic archaeological site of Ancient Olympia. This contributes to the research and documentation of monuments, supports the tourism and extroversion of the country as a modern and strong democracy with a long historical and cultural past and unquestionable development dynamics.”
The project digitally preserves 27 monuments at the site, among them the original Olympic Stadium, the temples of Zeus and Hera, and the workshop of the renowned sculptor Phidias. In the 3D experience, these buildings are recreated in lifelike detail, painstakingly researched by the Hellenic Ministry’s expert archaeologists to be as true as possible to their original forms. This includes historical timelines of the site’s changes over time and depictions of artifacts from each period.
Through its AI for Cultural Heritage initiative, Microsoft partnered with technology company Iconem, which specializes in digitizing historic sites in 3D, to create the foundational model of ancient Olympia. Both on-the-ground cameras and drones were used to take hundreds of thousands of images of the site, which Microsoft AI processed to create models so precise, they render as photorealistic.