Microsoft AI Recreates Ancient Greece’s Olympia as it Stood 2,000 Years Ago

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Microsoft AI Recreates Ancient Greece’s Olympia as it Stood 2,000 Years Ago

Ancient Olympia has been recreated by Microsoft. This means that from the comfort of your own armchair, you can login, and take a spectacular augmente

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Ancient Olympia has been recreated by Microsoft. This means that from the comfort of your own armchair, you can login, and take a spectacular augmented reality 3d tour of this iconic ancient site using Olympia AI.

The first Olympic Games were held at Olympia in the year 776 BC, almost 2,800 years ago. Dedicated to Zeus, the father of all gods, the site was in a valley at the confluence of the Alpheios and the Kladeos rivers, in western Peloponnese, across the southwestern foot of Mount Kronios.

The famous sporting event recurred here every fourth year until at least AD 393, and maybe up until a fire destroyed the central Temple of Zeus in 425 AD. Now, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture & Sport has teamed up with Microsoft and deep learning AI has digitally recreated the panhellenic sanctuary of ancient Olympia with Olympia AI.

Just a few of the images now available thanks to the Olympia AI project, fueled with Microsoft high-tech. ( Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Hellenic Republic )

Olympia AI Combines Images To Create Perfect Digital Models

To begin with, tech firm Iconem took thousands of high-resolution photographs from both the land and air of the entire archaeological site. Olympia AI then knitted the images together and created a series of 27 digital models of the most prominent monuments, including: the Olympic Stadium , the workshop of sculptor Phidias , and the temples dedicated to Hera and Zeus. Also featured is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: a 41-foot-tall ivory and gold statue of Zeus on vast cedarwood throne.

According to Greek City Times , Lina Medoni, Hellenic Republic Minister of Culture and Sports, said the state-of-the-art reconstruction of the Panhellenic sanctuary of Ancient Olympia was made with several “augmented reality technologies.” She added that the Olympia AI model helps “extol the values of Olympism, peace, harmony, excellence and noble rivalry.”

A classical Greek building that is featured in the Olympia AI program. (Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Hellenic Republic)

A classical Greek building that is featured in the Olympia AI program. ( Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Hellenic Republic )

From The Original Olympic Games To AI Perspectives

The stade represents a measurement of 625 Roman feet (185 meters or 606.9 feet). That is also about 125 paces, or one-eighth of a mile (606.9 feet). The first Olympic Games featured only one event called “ a stade, ” which was a foot race over an eighth of a mile distance. More noble sports such as wrestling, boxing and horse racing were eventually injected into the games as the whole event became heavily politicized and highly monetized, by rival city-states .

Greek prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, said the new Olympia AI model is “a unique way of experiencing Greece’s proud cultural heritage.” Now, history lovers anywhere in the world with an internet connection can visit ancient Olympia courtesy of augmented reality (AR) technology . A Microsoft HoloLens 2 exhibition is now on exhibition at the Athens Olympic Museum. And a Common Grounds version is available via a web interface , through apps for Android and iOS.

Just to get an idea of the future of AI in archaeology consider this image of dozens of images layered to create this virtual reality replica of a 16th century church in Peru. (Vanderbilt University)

Just to get an idea of the future of AI in archaeology consider this image of dozens of images layered to create this virtual reality replica of a 16th century church in Peru. ( Vanderbilt University )

The Future Of AI In Archaeology

According to a report in Daily Mail , Microsoft president and vice chair, Brad Smith, said the digital model offers a new perspective on a famous ancient site. But doesn’t all this seem so bizarre to you? Having grown up watching archaeology movies like Indiana Jones it is sometimes really strange to listen to all this talk of deep learning creating AI models, and for preprogrammed drones to be detecting archaeological sites. However, rest assured, while artificial intelligence “helps” archaeologists it will never replace the trowel wielding archaeologist.

AI is becoming a vital tool in mapping old civilizations and while deep machine learning algorithms are fine for recreating ancient buildings, based on photographs, “AI will not likely replace humans as it lacks the subjective expertise of a human archeologist.” This is according to a 2020 report on Analytics in Sight which assures us that while we are all seeing mind-blowing augmented reality archaeological recreations, and films, AI is still a long way from becoming an Indiana Jones. I mean, while a robotic arm could certainly replace an ancient artifact with a bag of sand, it could never outrun a “death ball’” in a tight cave.

Top image: Ancient Olympia Source: Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Hellenic Republic

By Ashley Cowie

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