Assassins Creed developer Ubisoft launched the ambitious and academically exciting Hieroglyph Initiative earlier today at an international press event in London.
Ancient Egypt has captured the imagination of explorers, writers and people the world over for countless decades and even though it is almost a hundred years since Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun (1922) the Pharoes still cling to some secrets today. One of the biggest secrets is that of the Egyptian form of writing Hieroglyphs.
Translating Hieroglyphs is a time-consuming process that has to be done by a human being and hasn’t changed since the discovery of the Rosetta Stone way back in 1799. Sometimes the piece in question may be broken or simply eroded with time making translation extremely difficult if not impossible. This is where Ubisoft and the Hieroglyph Initiative comes in. Using machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence, Ubisoft and Egyptologists are hoping that by teaching a computer to recognise, decipher and translate hieroglyphics patterns it will not only speed up excavations but may also be able to suggest pieces of missing hieroglyphs.
Collaborating closely with Google, Ubisoft set out to explore the potential of machine learning technology in order to make the hieroglyphics written language accessible to everyone.
“The Hieroglyphics Initiative not only has the potential to save us time as Egyptologists, it could unlock the magic of hieroglyphics for a new audience”, said Perrine Poiron, Egyptologist, Ph. D student (Sorbonne/UQAM)
One of the main elements of this project is to gather source material (imagery of Middle Period hieroglyphics in its original form), and multiple samples of the thousand or so hieroglyphs which have been identified and translated by scholars in the past. Therefore, Ubisoft calls for Researchers and Historians to add their contribution, in order to collect as much data as possible and to create the ultimate hieroglyphics translator.
“By making the Hieroglyphics Initiative an open source project, we aim to create a new connection between two things that we love at Ubisoft – history and technology”, said Pierre Miazga, Hieroglyphics Initiative Project Coordinator at Ubisoft. Contributors can register on the Hieroglyphics Initiative website
Ubisoft aims to release the first results of the project by the end of the year and then open up the project data and technology to everyone.