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Ancient Olympia: Common Grounds

ADA, New York / MICROSOFT / 2022

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Overview

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Credits

Overview

Background

Ancient Olympia: Common Grounds was born out of a chance encounter when Microsoft CEO Brad Smith met Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the Prime Minister of Greece, they discovered a shared passion to preserve world history.

Common Grounds is more than a multifaceted digital and physical experience. It lays the groundwork for an innovative approach to historical preservation while breaking new ground for public-private partnerships as the first of its kind for both Greece and Microsoft. Over 18 months of creative development, beginning in February 2020 and launching in November 2021, it combined pioneering design with painstaking archeological research.

Idea

The Statue of Zeus attracted travelers from across the globe. Once radiant in ivory and gold, this Wonder of the Ancient World was lost to time and left to the imagination.

Using Artificial Intelligence (AI), Extended Reality (XR), and Mixed Reality (MR), Ancient Olympia: Common Grounds resurrects this marvel of antiquity and recreates the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s rich history. The multifaceted digital and physical experiences enable people around the world to explore the birthplace of modern democracy and the Olympic Games reconstructing these ancient ruins and preserving them for the future.

Common Grounds also provides a model for cultural institutions to reach new audiences. Fostering accessibility and inclusivity, the AI-driven translation serves 20+ languages and users can contribute personal impressions through audio and text. Consumers are eager for more engaging and participatory forms of storytelling; Common Grounds blends tradition with technology, bringing the past to life for new generations.

Strategy

By design, our target audience was broad. Common Grounds aims to make the history of Ancient Olympia more available to the world, no matter the physical, cultural, or technological limitations. Building on the mission of Microsoft’s AI for Cultural Heritage program, the project uses scale to promote accessibility — democratizing access to the UNESCO World Heritage Site itself and reflecting the Ancient Olympic values of global community and cultural appreciation.

The driving goal was to empower Greece, through its Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, by facilitating the conservation of this important history and ensuring that they own the materials and findings. The core mandate of this unique collaboration between Microsoft and Greece was to preserve Ancient Olympia’s monuments for future generations as a way of creating an indelible cultural link between antiquity, today, and tomorrow.

Execution

Ancient Olympia: Common Grounds was born out of a chance encounter when Microsoft CEO Brad Smith met Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s Prime Minister, they discovered a shared passion to preserve history. Common Grounds exemplifies Microsoft's AI For Cultural Heritage program, which seeks new ways to maintain the languages we speak, the places we live, and artifacts we treasure.

Common Grounds is more than a multifaceted digital and physical experience. It represents an innovative approach to historical and cultural conservation while breaking new ground for public-private partnerships as the first of its kind for both Greece and Microsoft. Beginning development in February 2020 and launching November 2021, it combined pioneering design with painstaking archeological research to preserve Ancient Olympia and make it accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world.

The team first modeled the ancient site through AI-powered photogrammetry. Archaeologists and experts, under the guidance of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, then ensured the accuracy of these renderings and their contextual significance. Today, the government and people of Greece have a novel way to safeguard this important history against the tests of time.

By design, Common Grounds uses scale to promote accessibility democratizing access to the site itself while reflecting the Ancient Olympic values of global community and cultural appreciation. Users can tour 27 of Olympia’s monuments onsite or at home via an extensive web platform and AR-enabled app. Weaving together multiple virtual and physical touchpoints, Common Grounds comes to life at the Athens Olympic Museum that includes a multisensory journey back to 173 CE (powered by Microsoft’s HoloLens2) and an interactive app for deeper immersion.

Common Grounds employs a universal design language across platforms to emphasize accessibility and embody the collaboration’s core mission: illuminate what humanity once achieved in order to remind us what we’re still capable of today.

Outcome

Common Grounds increased total consumer awareness — particularly, educating the public about the site of Ancient Olympia and history of the Ancient Games — through both targeted campaigns and extensive media coverage. The experience generated 6.6M visits, over 7M video views, and a total reach of 393M (and counting) users across all touchpoints.

Common Grounds has had a broad business impact and garnered global attention and recognition. Earned media and campaign impressions have exceeded 41M, while the web experience has so far welcomed nearly 100,000 unique visitors.

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