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The Pyrgi Pediment @ the Field Museum



AI Face generating process

3D Photogrammetry model in VR Application.

3D model with depth shading applied in VR application.

3D model with with AI generated facial models in VR application.

3D model with statue gaze lines in VR application.



A project by Duke University in collaboration with FollowFox.AI at the Field Museum of Chicago

The Armour lecture at the Field Museum of Chicago on April 26 2023 will focus on emergent forms of virtual/hybrid communication, specifically Virtual Reality (VR) and generative Artificial Intelligence (AI). The talk explores how AI, VR, and other media assist museum visitors in comprehending the complex iconography of an Etruscan artifact from the archaeological site of Pyrgi, Santa Severa, near Rome.

The Etruscan temple pediment of Pyrgi (now housed in the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome; 470-460 BCE) is one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the first millennium BCE, and it displays a highly complex and diverse iconography. The myth depicted is that of the “Seven against Thebes,” and describes the struggle between Oedipus’ twin sons Eteocles and Polynices for the throne of Thebes. Eteocles refuses to return the kingdom to his brother, Polynices, and seven other champions attack Thebes in response.

The artifact will be explorable in virtual form at the Field Museum as a result of a groundbreaking experiment combining VR, digital media, and generative AI. The dramatic visual narrative is recreated for a large audience using digital photogrammetry to reconstruct the pediment and its characters. The Etruscan pediment will be transformed into a theatrical experience utilizing VR headsets, animations created with artificial intelligence neural networks.

The characters are brought back to life through a fine-tuned checkpoint of open-source Stable Diffusion generative art AI. This technology places photorealistic versions of each character into the pediment while remaining true to their Etruscan roots. AI tools constrain the depth and boundaries of the statues, meticulously restoring elements with unmatched precision.

The novel strategy not only resurrects an Etruscan masterpiece but also demonstrates the transformative potential of AI in reconstructing the past. Explore this awe-inspiring fusion of ancient art and modern technology as we uncover the secrets of the Etruscan civilization and reshape the role of artificial intelligence in archaeology.

Thanks to a multidisciplinary and inventive method of media integration, the final product is a sophisticated cultural translation of an archaeological artifact that allows users/participants to discover an unexplored Multiverse.

The exhibition featured two video tracks depicting the sculptural figures interpreted through Artificial Intelligence (AI) image synthesis algorithms. This process presents photorealistic representations providing the public an accessible, dramatic reading of the pediment. A Virtual Reality (VR) application deployed over five headsets provided a guided tour of the pediment utilizing a 3D model obtained through photogrammetry processes. Both the video tracks and the VR application featured dramatic vocal performances introducing each character.

Pyrgi VR-AI Project: Maurizio Forte, Duke University

VR application: Augustus Wendell, Duke University:

Digital photogrammetry: Nevio Danelon, Duke University:

AI applications: Felipe Infante de Castro, Irakly Pkhovelishvili, Follofox.AI

Oliver Hess (voice talent)

Grant Bryden (voice talent)

Khiyali Pillalamarri (voice talent)

Blaze Gambla (voice talent)

Zack Finacchio (voice talent)

Ted Federle (voice talent)

Special thanks to the Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia and the Sapienza University (Dept.of Classical Studies) for their collaboration.