Tourists visiting the Acropolis in Greece this holiday season have the unique opportunity to step into the past and witness the vivid history of one of the world’s most debated cultural heritage sites. All it takes is a smartphone. An innovative app, supported by Greece’s Culture Ministry, allows visitors to virtually explore the Acropolis, complete with a digital overlay that showcases how the ancient site appeared over 2,500 years ago. This remarkable Greek experience includes a glimpse of the marble sculptures removed from the Parthenon, which are now housed in the British Museum in London, sparking an ongoing debate between Greece and the UK over their return.
A GLIMPSE INTO ANCIENT GREECE WITH AUGMENTED REALITY
The app, aptly named “Chronos” after the mythical king of the Titans and the Greek word for “time,” employs augmented reality (AR) to transport users back in time. By simply pointing their smartphones at the Parthenon temple, visitors can witness the sculptures restored to their original locations, as believed by archaeologists. Moreover, the app reveals lesser-known features, such as the vibrant colors once adorning many of the Acropolis sculptures and the presence of a shallow pool of water under the statue of goddess Athena in the Parthenon’s main chamber.
BENEFITS AND IMPLICATIONS
This virtual restoration offers a captivating and informative experience that could ease the crowded conditions of visiting these iconic monuments in person. It also aligns with Greece’s efforts to promote its cities as year-round tourist destinations. Tourism is a cornerstone of the Greek economy, and despite challenges like wildfires, visitor numbers have rebounded since the COVID-19 pandemic. From January to July, inbound tourists increased by nearly 22%, generating over 10 billion euros in revenue.
The app’s arrival exemplifies the growing influence of AR technology, affecting various professional and leisure activities. It enhances accessibility to Greece’s ancient landmarks, complementing recent physical improvements like ramps and anti-slip pathways.
LATE BUT ENTHUSIASTIC ADOPTION OF TECHNOLOGY
Greece’s Culture Ministry and national tourism authority have embraced technology with enthusiasm. Notably, the video game Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was used to attract younger travelers from China to Greece through a state-organized photo contest. Additionally, Microsoft collaborated with the Culture Ministry to launch a digital tour at ancient Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games. These innovations aim to make the country’s ancient heritage more accessible to both physical and virtual visitors worldwide.
Culture Minister Lina Mendoni highlights the importance of extending accessibility to the digital space. With the Chronos app, historical knowledge can be shared by visitors—both real and virtual—across the globe.
Developed by Greek telecoms provider Cosmote, this free app holds the potential to further enhance the visitor experience, offering an AI-powered virtual guide called Clio among its existing features. As technology continues to bridge the past and present, Greece’s cultural treasures become more accessible and engaging for all.