Ubisoft and Google to Translate Hieroglyphics with AI

Video game creator Ubisoft is dabbling in the ancient language translation business with the help of Google.

Known for games set in real-world and fictional history, Ubisoft revealed its latest project today: The Hieroglyphics Initiative.

The machine learning-based research project is powered by Google TensorFlow—an open source software library—to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics, one of the oldest written languages in history.

Ubisoft explained in a release the idea for the project cropped up while the development team was recreating Cleopatra’s Egypt for the company’s newest Assassin’s Creed video game. In doing so, the team recognized how time-consuming it was to translate the ancient Egyptian script and how technology could be harnessed to overcome this challenge, making hieroglyphics a more accessible language. The answer was machine learning.

“Because of their age, the quality of inscriptions carved on stone three to four thousand years ago varies greatly – with many having missing or damaged portions,” Ubisoft stated on their website. “It’s our belief that machine learning can transform the process of collating, cataloguing and understanding the written language of the Pharaohs.”

The Ubisoft-Google AI-powered project is calling on researchers and historians to contribute existing translations and add script samples to help fuel the translation engine with as much data as possible.

“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, a hieroglyphics initiative project coordinator at Ubisoft.

The video game powerhouse said they’ve already started compiling data, developing tools and reaching out to the academic community for partnerships. Their goal is to release the results by the end of the year.

Earlier this month, the France-based Ubisoft unveiled plans to invest $780 million in Quebec over the next decade, opening two new studios and hiring more than 1,000 people.