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Baidu restores Terracotta Army with AR

When you visit the Terracotta Army (兵马俑 bīngmǎyǒng) in west China’s Xi’an, you will feel amazed by the grandeur of the innumerable clay soldiers and horses, which were buried with China’s first emperor Qinshihuang to accompany him to the afterlife. In people’s mind, these terracotta sculptures look vivid and lifelike, but the grayness is boring and lifeless.

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Image credit: CNWEST and National Geographic

Did you know, however, that these gray funerary statues were actually brightly colored when they were first made? The terracotta figures were colored after being fired by craftsmen in Qin Dynasty, but unfortunately, the paint adhering to the surface fell off and turned gray in a few minutes after being unearthed, as a result of water loss and a lack of effective preservation technology.

But now, Baidu has teamed up with Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum to revive the visuals of these ancient relics with augmented reality (AR) technology. On May 18, Baidu launched its AR rendition of the Terracotta Army, restoring them to their bright coloring. Baidu’s AR offerings encompass the Terracotta Pit No.2, kneeling archers, and bronze chariots and horses.

After tapping on the camera button on the right side of the search bar on their Baidu app, users can find the AR feature. Scan a trigger image (like the three pictures below) with the AR feature, and tap on the ‘click to start’ icon on their mobile phone screen, and users can see vivid and colorful virtual imaging of terracotta figures overlaid on their mobile phone.

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手机百度AR3手机百度ARImage credit: Tencent Tech

In addition, Baidu launched a digital version of the terracotta army museum, making the image of the terracotta army the first of the world’s eight wonders to be put online at 20 billion pixels.

Earlier this year, Baidu virtually restored the appearance of Beijing’s nine ancient gates, following its launch of a project aimed at restoring Nepalese cultural sites in virtual 3D in 2015.

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AR on the Terracotta Warriors

Baidu SVP Shen Dou said that the tie-up with Emperor Qinshihuang’s Mausoleum Site Museum is their first step in the virtual restoration of historical relics with AR technology. In the future, they plan to collaborate with other domestic and foreign cultural and historical sites including the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, to ‘make the complicated world become simple with technologies’.

Baidu has been working on the AR technology over the past four years and set up an AR lab in Beijing in January, as part of its efforts to seek new growth drivers (e.g. AR marketing).

The lab is the fourth one launched by the search giant after artificial intelligence, deep learning, and big data – all are essential to Baidu’s future technology development.

Baidu has been active in applying AR in its search app, map service, and advertising business, and plans to bring AR to more fields including education, healthcare and tourism in the future.

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