A man holds a tablet showing a digitally superimposed virtual reconstruction of the ancient Parthenon temple, on the Acropolis Hill in Athens, Greece, Tuesday, June 13, 2023. Greece has become a late but enthusiastic convert to new technologies as a means of displaying its famous archaeological monuments and deepening visitors’ knowledge of ancient history. The latest virtual tour on offer is delivered by a mobile app that uses augmented reality to produce digital overlays showing visitors to the Acropolis what the site and its sculptures looked like 2,500 years ago. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)
By DEREK GATOPOULOS And THEODORA TONGAS (Associated Press)
ATHENS, Greece — Tourists heading to the Acropolis this holiday season will be able to witness the resolution of one of the world’s most heated debates over cultural heritage.
All they need is a smartphone.
Visitors can now pinch and zoom on the ancient Greek site, with a digital overlay showing what it once looked like. This includes a collection of marble sculptures removed from the Parthenon more than 200 years ago and which are now on display at the British Museum in London. Greece demanded their return.
For now, an app backed by the Greek Ministry of Culture allows visitors to point their phones at the Parthenon temple, and the sculptures preserved in London appear on the monument as archaeologists believe they were ago 2,500 years old.
Other lesser-known elements also appear: many sculptures on the Acropolis were painted in bright colors. A statue of the goddess Athena in the main chamber of the Parthenon also stood above a shallow pool of water.
“It’s really impressive… the only time I’ve seen this kind of technology before was at the dentist,” said Shriya Parsotam Chitnavis, a tourist from London, after checking out the app through a hot afternoon on the Acropolis, on top of a hill, the most popular in Greece. Archeological site.
“I didn’t know much about (the Acropolis) and I had to be convinced to come here. Seeing that made it more interesting – seeing it in color,” she said. “I’m more of a visual person, so being interactive really helped me enjoy it.”
Virtual restoration works everywhere and could save some visitors the crowded climb and long wait to see iconic landmarks up close. It could also contribute to the country’s campaign to make Greek cities year-round destinations.
Tourism, vital to the Greek economy, has rebounded strongly since the COVID-19 pandemic, even as wildfires drove visitors from the island of Rhodes and affected other regions this summer. The number of inbound visitors from January to July increased by 21.9% to 16.2 million compared to last year, according to the Bank of Greece. Revenue rose just over 20% to 10.3 billion euros ($10.8 billion).
The app, called “Chronos” after the mythological king of the Titans and the Greek word for “time,” uses augmented reality to place the ancient impression of the site on the screen, matching the real-world view when you are walking around.
AR is coming to consumers after a long wait and is expected to touch a wide range of professional and leisure activities.
Medical surgery, military training and specialized machine repair, as well as retail and live event experiences are all in the sights of big tech companies betting on a lucrative future in immersive services. Tech giants like Meta and Apple are getting into VR headsets that can cost thousands of dollars.
The high price will keep the cellphone as the primary platform for distributing augmented reality to consumers for some time, said Maria Engberg, co-author of the book “Reality Media” on augmented and virtual reality.
She says traveler services will soon offer a better integrated experience, allowing for more sharing options during tours and the overlaying of stock photos and videos.
“AR and VR are lagging behind other types of things like games and movies that we consume digitally,” said Engberg, associate professor of computer science and media technology at the University of Malmö in Sweden.
“I think we’ll see some really interesting customer experiences in the coming years as more content from museums and archives is digitized,” she said.
The Greek Ministry of Culture and the national tourism authority were late but enthusiastic converts to the technology. The popular video game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which allows players to travel through ancient Athens, was used to lure young travelers from China to Greece through a state-run photo competition.
Microsoft partnered with the Ministry of Culture two years ago to launch an immersive digital tour of ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games in southern Greece.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni said these innovations would improve accessibility to Greece’s ancient monuments, complementing the recent installation of ramps and non-slip pathways.
“Accessibility extends to the digital space,” Mendoni said at a Chronos app preview launch event in May. “Real visitors and virtual visitors from all over the world can share historical knowledge.”
Developed by Greek telecommunications provider Cosmote, the designers of the free app hope to build on existing features, including an artificial intelligence-powered virtual guide, Clio.
“As technologies and networks advance, with better bandwidth and lower latencies, mobile devices will be able to download higher quality content,” said Panayiotis Gabrielides, a senior official at the telecommunications company. involved in the project.
Virtual reconstructions using Chronos also cover three other Acropolis monuments, an adjacent Roman theater and parts of the Acropolis Museum built at the foot of the rock.
___ AP photographer Petros Giannakouris in Athens contributed.