“ARA as it was”, a first of a kind Immersive Augmented Reality experience for Cultural Heritage

Tourist with AR VR headset inside the Ara Pacis in Rome

Immersivity is referred today as one of the most important attributes of high quality Virtual Reality experiences. Indeed, much attention has been recently devoted to technologies that enable immersivity mainly as a consequence of the widespread adoption of Virtual Reality headsets, such as Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Samsung Gear. Seldomly the term ?immersive? is used today to make reference to Augmented Reality experiences, as, notwithstanding the promises, they mainly run on smartphones or not yet fully developed Smartglasses. This happens mainly because of the limitation of current AR displays.

On Monday 10th October 2016, the city of Rome together with Zetema, one of the most important Italian cultural heritage management organizations, launched and opened to the public the “ARA as it was“, namely the first large scale augmented reality valorization project for the roman cultural heritage. Hosted in a beautiful building designed by the famous American architect Richard Meyer, Ara Pacis is the symbol of the power exerted by the Augustan lineage across the Roman Empire.

The Project

The project has been developed by ETT Solutions in collaboration with the Augmented Reality vendor, Inglobe Technologies, that provided the AR technology that made it possible. Basically, the Ara Pacis Augmented Reality system is based on immersive AR headsets that work in association with an Application that assists visitors through the discovery of the monument and its history.

We expect that this is going to be one of the most important benchmarks for Augmented Reality projects for Cultural Heritage as Zetema has already a business model around this project. Paying visitors are provided with Immersive Smartglasses, namely Samsung GearVR, powered by a Samsung S7 smartphone that runs the “Ara as it was” application.

The application is based on a unique feature of Inglobe’s AR technology that provides high performance 3D Tracking on a variety of devices, including Samsung Gear VR. This feature, together with the other features of the technology by Inglobe has made it possible to develop such an incredible and unique experience.

The Experience of an immersive Cultural Heritage site

Thanks to this approach, visitors can immerse themselves in the narrative path of the museum in first person. They can see the bas-reliefs and elements of the monument come to life in AR by providing the original shapes and colors together with information related to their history.

The experience is personalized and is based on a hybrid and multi-sensorial approach as it relies on sensorimotor, visual and auditory interaction, right there in the real world.

Ara Pacis Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality headset
Tourist with VR AR headset visiting Ara Pacis in Rome

Talking about the solution, it allows to navigate through the different POIs of the monument. Each POI is a gateway to an immersive AR experience that leverages 3D object recognition and tracking (unique features of Inglobe’s AR technology) to provide visitors with information related to digital reconstructions both in terms of architecture and socio-historical meaning of the monument. Large FOV, precision of 3D Tracking, accuracy of Computer Graphics overlays and personalization of experience are just some of the takeaways of the solution.

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