During an International Media event for Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ubisoft unveiled The Hieroglyphics Initiative, a machine learning based research project powered by Google TensorFlow, to simplify the decipherment of hieroglyphics, one of the oldest written languages in the history of mankind.

During the recreation of Cleopatra’s Egypt for Assassin’s Creed Origins, the most ancient time period ever explored in an Assassin’s Creed game, the development team at Ubisoft realised how challenging it still is to unlock the secrets of the past and wondered how modern technology could help. Translating hieroglyphics is a manual and time-consuming process. It has been over 200 years since the Rosetta Stone first helped to understand them. 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).

Machine Learning is the technique used to develop artificial intelligence, which is the science of making things smart. Image recognition is a classic example of machine learning, where the application learns to identify an object by being told which images contain the object and which don’t. The Hieroglyphics Initiative will use this technique to identify the images of hand-carved hieroglyphs, all of which differ significantly from one source to another, in order to recognise individual hieroglyphs which we know the meaning of.

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.

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