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Ubisoft pledge to make hieroglyph translation algorithm open access

While we’re all busy digging into ancient Greece, Ubisoft haven’t forgotten last year’s Ptolomaic playground, Assassin’s Creed Origins. During development, they partnered with Egyptologists, and in doing so they apparently discovered that translating hieroglyphs is very difficult and time consuming. In response, they started looking into ways to streamline the process using machine learning, and this week, they presented their initial progress.

Take a look at their introductory video explaining what they’re trying to achieve:

I’m not an Egyptologist, but I do have a history degree, which has broadly taught me that the past is an almost entirely unknowable mess. But still, I’m here for trying to make it a little more accessible to both researchers and general audiences.

Ubisoft’s first step was asking for volunteers to trace hieroglyphs on their website, and Assassin’s Creed fans were well up for it – “more than 80,000 glyphs were drawn in the tool” on the first night it was active. (I’ve done a few myself and it’s very reminiscent of an old Mario Party minigame, which is to say weirdly compelling.)

Now they’ve got the basics in place, they’ve pledged to bring the algorithm into open access by the end of the year, so that academics can both use it and help them to improve it. They’re taking the drawing tool and reworking it as a teaching tool for students learning the hieroglyphic script, too.

In the meantime, we can all keep learning about the Peloponnesian wars (and the precursor race) in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which has no hieroglyphs but plenty of seduction and swimming.

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Jay Castello

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Jay writes about video games, falls down endless internet rabbit holes, and takes a lot of pictures of flowers.

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