Circo Maximo Experience, a project to enhance cultural heritage with Mixed Reality

Circus Maximus in Rome 3D AR VR

Thanks to an innovative cultural heritage valorisation project that relies on Augmented and Virtual Reality technologies, it’s now possible to experience the Circus Maximus – one of the most significant places in the Roman history – in its original splendour.

By means of an immersive tour and by wearing Mixed Reality headsets, visitors will be able to admire the monument across all the transformations that it went through during the different ages. Starting from the first wooden structures, to the glory of the imperial age, from the Middle Ages to the first decades of the ‘900, visitors will be engaged in an exciting journey through history.

Circo Maximo Experience is a particularly complex engineering challenge that required the collaboration of an interdisciplinary team called to harmonize the historical, archaeological, architectural and cultural dimensions of the project with the constraints of the site and the power of the technology.

tourist in rome with an augmented reality headset
Circus Maximus in Rome AR VR Headset

The project, promoted by Roma Capitale – Department of Cultural Growth, Capitolina Superintendency for Cultural Heritage – and organized by Zètema Progetto Cultura, has been developed by Inglobe Technologies in collaboration with GS NET Italia. The scientific direction is by the Capitolina Superintendency to Cultural Heritage. The solution is based on the coupling of Zeiss VR One Plus headsets with iPhone 6S Plus smartphones and headphones to engage visitors in a unique visit experience of an archaeological site.

A challenging cultural heritage project

The available headsets create a virtual rendering of the Circus Maximus by overlapping 3D reconstructions of the past to the present-day reality to highlight its original magnificence: in particular, the Arch of Titus will appear in its original majestic height. Circo Maximo Experience, through continuous flashbacks to the past thanks to reconstructions in augmented and virtual reality, will enable visitors to see the life of the age-old valley unfold before their eyes, stroll through the Roman shops and watch a chariot race among shouts of encouragement and overturned chariots.

This is a cutting-edge project that implements interactive technologies never before employed in an outdoor area of ??such a significant size. The reconstruction in augmented and virtual reality is also exceptionally usable regardless of the daily lighting variations and seasonal climatic changes. The 3D contents and the experiences – under the Artistic Direction/Supervision of Tiziana Primavera and under the scientific direction of the Capitolina Superintendency for Cultural Heritage – have been appropriately calibrated to be able to work in real time on a mobile device with limited computing capabilities.

On the software side, we implemented an engine based on Inglobe’s ARmedia SDK with a wrapper to Apple’s ARkit. We have implemented stereoscopic rendering both in VR and AR. We have relied on a specific and extremely accurate 3D mapping method to create maps of the area. We have supported rendering for complex 3D scenes in real-time.

Circo Maximo Experience Temple Virtual Reality Rome

The highlights of the cultural heritage project

Here go just a few figures of the project:

  • 7 historical phases: the study and reconstructions have been extended to the various historical phases of the Circus, requiring the modeling of elements and configurations that span over 2000 years of history
  • +250,000 Lines of Code: more than 250,000 lines of code have been written for the implementation of the project; they manage the different aspects of the application, from localization and tracking to content visualization, all aimed at making the experiences work robustly in time real in an outdoor site
  • 3 Modelled versions of the Circus: the Circus has been reconstructed through the three main historical phases – the Archaic Age, the Circus from the 1st century BC the first century AD, the Circus of the Imperial Age – to continue with the Middle Ages, the industrial age and the end of the Second World War
  • +40 minutes is the total duration of the experience: the visit route that can be enjoyed over a period of time ranging from 45 to 80 minutes
  • +1800 3D models created: the project is strongly characterized by the use of 3D technologies and to support the narration, numerous elements and details have been modeled
  • 8 original songs created by the italian Composer Vito Terribile act as a soundtrack during the emotional journey of the visitors giving an extraordinary emphasis to each stage of the visual tour, enriching it with great suggestion through the different historical periods, with the aim of making the experience even more unique and compelling.
circo maximo experience - augmented reality tourists with VR headset

The tour is available in six languages ??(Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Russian). The 8 Points of Interest in which the tour is organized include: the Valley and the origins of the Circus, the Circus from Julius Caesar to Trajan, the Circus in the imperial age, the Cavea, the Arch of Titus, the Shops (tabernae), the Circus in the Middle and Modern Ages and finally “A day at the Circus”.

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