A multi-medial tale in which history and technology come together to create a fully immersive and multi-sensorial experience

(ETT S.p.A. – Zètema Progetto Cultura, Rome, Italy)

Keywords: Ara Pacis, AR- VR for archaeological heritage, real-time 3D tracking system

The “L’Ara com’era” (The Ara As It Was) project, promoted by the City of Rome (Roma Capitale), Department of Cultural Growth – Capitolina Superintendency of Cultural Heritage, was organised by Zètema Culture Project and assigned to ETT SpA.
This is the first time a work of art has been systematically enhanced using Augmented and Virtual Reality. The subject is one of the most important Roman monuments, Ara Pacis, built by Augustus between 13 and 9 BC.
Samsung GearVR viewers bring the Ara reliefs to life, regaining their original splendour right before visitors’ eyes.
ETT utilised a 3D tracking system on this project, making use of the most advanced computer vision algorithms. The entire AR system recognises three-dimensional bas-reliefs and carries out real-time tracking. This recognition system “anchors” the overlay to the real surface, increasing the effectiveness of this immersive experience. This technology lets users see the monument in its original colours, as established by the Superintendency. The voices of Luca Ward and Manuela Mandracchia accompany visitors on the tour of reliefs depicting the sacrifice of Aeneas and the birth of Romulus and Remus, with characters, gestures and deities illustrating the origins of Rome and the lineage of Augustus.
In the three-month period following the opening, there were more than 11,000 visitors, even though it was only open on Friday and Saturday evenings. This result permitted additional investment, with the addition of another two Virtual Reality points of interest. Starting on January 18, the combination of live filming, 3D reconstructions and computer graphics take visitors in the northern part of ancient Campus Martius, where they can watch the first VR reconstruction of a Roman sacrifice.
Feedback is enthusiastic, encouraging us to continue in the use of cutting-edge technologies to enhance our cultural heritage.

Relevance conference / Relevance session:
The project is an important example of how the results of artistic research can effectively reach the audience through the use of cutting-edge technologies, gaining enthusiastic feedback from users.

The entire AR system recognises three-dimensional bas-reliefs and carries out real-time tracking to show the visitors the original colors of the Ara Pacis.