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Snapchat maker Snap has teamed up with the Louvre museum in Paris on a five-part augmented reality (AR) experience called “Egypt Augmented.”
Launching Wednesday, it comprises four location-specific experiences based around three exhibits inside the museum’s Department of Egyptian Antiquities, and one in the exterior courtyard, the Cour Carrée. Additionally, Snapchat users around the globe can also use a free Face Lens feature inspired by the exhibition.
Upon scanning a QR code with their smartphone, visitors to the museum can see exhibits come to life in AR before their eyes. The "Dendera Zodiac,” a ceiling relief featuring a Ptolemaic sky map from 50BC, appears in 3D alongside simple explanations of its symbols and purpose.
The “Chamber of Ancestors," a carved tomb interior from 1450 BC representing Ancient Egyptian dynasties, is recreated in the glorious technicolor of its original pigments. Meanwhile, the pink granite bas-reliefs of the four-sided shrine, The 550 BC “Naos of Amasis,” are transformed back to their original state. Its wooden doors open to reveal a statue of the god Osiris once housed within.
Outside, a digital representation of the obelisk transported from Egypt’s Luxor to Paris in 1836 appears to rear up in the center of the museum’s Cour Carrée where it was originally destined to be erected. Following some debate, the real thing finally found its home in the city’s Place de la Concorde, where it currently stands.
The “Egypt Augmented” experience has been created to mark 200 years since archaeologist Jean-François Champollion cracked the code to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs using the famed Rosetta Stone.
During a preview on Tuesday, The Louvre’s Vincent Rondot—who heads up the museum’s Antiquities Department—told Decrypt’s SCENE that it’s paramount that a museum reflects the times we are living in.
“Snap’s AR is a very good way to enhance our capacity to explain what we are presenting,” he said. “We have to enter the dance.”
Although he acknowledged that the experiences target a younger demographic, he maintained that “they can also attract an older generation to augmented reality.”
He said that the Louvre’s decision to debut the tech via Ancient Egyptian artifacts was a very deliberate one—because alongside modern medicine and architecture, “the civilization is widely considered as the origin of technology itself.”
The Louvre’s Chief Curator Hélène Guichard added, “Archaeologists are always very curious about progress, and always looking at how it can better serve our discipline and our mission of bringing it to the public.”
She went on to describe how Egyptologist Flinders Petrie performed the first radiological study of an Egyptian mummy shortly after the X-ray technique was discovered at the end of the 19th century.
The “Egypt Augmented” experience was created by Snap’s Paris AR Studio, which launched just 18 months ago and based out of the city’s startup campus, Station F. One of the studio’s focuses is on non-commercial partnerships with institutions.
According to the studio’s director, Donatien Bozon, its mission is “to educate and inspire the world about the true potential of AR—especially in the field of culture and the arts where it can open up a whole new range of possibilities for cultural institutions.”
“Our goal is to partner with cultural institutions and artists to change the perception of AR,” he told Decrypt’s SCENE. That it’s not just for silly stuff like dog ears and vomiting rainbows. AR can be monumental; it can tell stories and be magical.
Last year, Paris AR Studio created an experience to celebrate an exhibition at Paris’ Pompidou Center by Christian Marclay, transforming the building’s 137.7-foot facade into an AR musical instrument. Visitors could trigger different sounds by touching various points on the screen of their smartphones.
Earlier this year, Snap partnered with electronic music icons Daft Punk on AR experiences, which allowed fans to discover a hidden track alongside an AR treasure hunt and billboard.
The Louvre’s “Egypt Augmented” experience will be available for visitors to discover until fall 2024.
Edited by Andrew Hayward