Thursday, 30 July 2020

Thanks to Assassin's Creed: Google AI now translates hieroglyphs

In 2017, Ubisoft and Google started trying to translate Egyptian hieroglyphics using AI. Three years later, Google publishes the AI ​​translator Fabricius.
Ubisoft's developers built a huge world in ancient Egypt for Assassin's Creed Origins, which includes a historical exploration mode and launched the AI ​​translation initiative with Google. Image: Ubisoft.

On the anniversary of the discovery of the Rosetta Stone, Google releases an AI that can translate Egyptian hieroglyphs . The ancient tablet helped to decipher the Egyptian script, since it contained a decree of the priest from 196 BC. BC in Demotic, Ancient Greek and Egyptian hieroglyphics. 

Google's AI researchers have integrated the hieroglyphic translator Fabricius into the arts & culture app of the tech company. There, users can learn the language in a playful way and then have their own words and messages translated. Google also offers an expert version of Fabricius that is aimed at language researchers.

Assassin's Creed Origins brought Ubisoft and Google together
Fabricius is named after the inventor of epigraphy, the study of ancient inscriptions, and was built with Google's AI cloud service AutoML Vision . The service allows developers and researchers to train image analysis AIs with just a few clicks. Fabricius was trained with texts from the thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae .

The translation AI was created in collaboration with the Australian Center for Egyptology at Macquarie University, Egyptologists from all over the world, Psycle Interactive and Ubisoft .

In 2017, the video game developer and publisher started the research project "The Hieroglyphics Initiative" for the release of Assassin's Creed Origins, which is based in ancient Egypt and includes a historical exploration mode. The Project's goal was to Translate Egyptian hieroglyphics with AI.
The AI ​​can translate longer passages of hieroglyphs into English or Arabic.

AI translator is a tool, not a substitute
However, the process still requires human expert knowledge: AI helps researchers to recognize, classify and translate hieroglyphs in images. But there are still artifacts to be cleared and highlighted in hieroglyphs, alternative translations selected, and other AI bugs fixed.

"An expert is still needed to read ancient writings," says the Egyptologist Dr. Roland Enmarch told the BBC . The handmade inscriptions varied depending on the era and craftsmen.

But human help could improve this first AI tool of its kind in the long term. It is a step in the right direction, says Enmarch.

Jump into the digital age
For the researchers, the project is part of the leap into the digital age. "The digitization of text material that was previously only available in books will completely revolutionize the way Egyptologists work," says the Australian Egyptologist Dr. Alex Woods.

So far, researchers have had to roll books for translations - a process that has not been changed in over a hundred years , Google writes.

The translator is available as an open source variant . The Google researchers want to enable further projects for AI translation of old languages. Google also offers a tutorial for Egyptologists .

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