Ancient Olympia To Be Preserved As Virtual Reality Archive

Image credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport

Olympia of more than 2,000 years ago turned into a virtual and augmented-reality experience under a collaboration between Greece and Microsoft

The ancient city of Olympia, home of the original Olympic Games, is to be preserved digitally under a collaboration between the Greek government and Microsoft.

The digital project uses artificial intelligence to map and restore the site, allowing visitors to explore it as it stood more than 2,000 years ago, Microsoft said.

The resources are available through a mobile app, a web-based desktop experience and an immersive exhibition at the Olympic Museum in Athens using Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 headset.

The project digitally preserves more than 27 monuments on the site, including the original Olympic Stadium, the temples of Zeus and Hera and the workshop of the renowned sculptor Phidias.

Image credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport
Image credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport

Artificial intelligence

The buildings are recreated in lifelike detail researched by archaeologists at the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport.

The project includes historical timelines of the site’s changes over time and depictions of artefacts from each period.

Through its AI for Cultural Heritage programme Microsoft worked with technology company Iconem, which specialises in digitising historic sites in 3D, to create the foundational model for ancient Olympia.

On-the-ground cameras and drones were used to take hundreds of thousands of images of the site, which Microsoft AI processed to create 3D models.

Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called the project a “unique” way of experiencing the ancient site.

Image credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport
Image credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sport

Augmented reality

Lina Mendoni, Hellenic Republic Minister of Culture and Sports, said the digital project brings to life the Olympian values of “peace, harmony, excellence and noble rivalry”.

“The digital preservation project, through the use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality technologies, implemented through the cultural sponsorship of Microsoft,

“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,” she said.

Microsoft president Brad Smith said the project brings together “humanity and cutting-edge technology”.

Microsoft competes with companies such as Facebook — recently renamed Meta — in the world of augmented and virtual reality.