Friday, January 22, 2021

Digital museum in Saudi Arabia uses AI tools to revive the kingdom’s history

Saudi Arabia and the Middle East have been catapulted into the future thanks to a digital transition in the past year, and the vision to adopt tech-savvy solutions for enhancing the economy and public services. But while authorities have eyes fixed on targets for the coming decade, tools like AI and 3D printing are also digging up the region’s legacy, by enhancing remnants of history.

Smart tools like AI-powered scanning and 3D printing are being used successfully to replicate artefacts like Michelangelo’s David, which will be unveiled at Dubai expo this year. Taking integration of tech deeper into culture, the curator of Al-Masmak digital museum in Saudi Arabia is adding colour to black and white images and enhancing faded pictures, to breathe new life into the kingdom’s memories.

Omar Murshid used 3D scanning to capture the intricacies of a pocket watch belonging to former Saudi ruler King Faisal from the 40s, and added finishing touches to it manually. He founded the museum a decade back and worked for hours on recolouring images via photoshop.

But recently developed apps are capable of identifying colours in sepia as well as black and white images, to revive nostalgic moments with higher accuracy. The challenge of adding more shades to black and white video footage has been overcome via AI-powered software that divides the clip into images and colours each frame separately, before stitching them back into a video.

The vibrant Hajj season of 1954 at mosques in Makkah and Medina has been highlighted along with King Abdul Aziz’s iconic visit to Egypt in 1946, via coloured images available on Al-Masmak’s Insta handle. The initiative marks Saudi government’s focus on art and culture, since it had also announced a museum of digital art in Jeddah last year.

The development is another feat for use of tech in getting a better look at the past, after archaeologists were able to study an Egyptian mummy without even touching its bandages, thanks to an X-ray tool.

Image: Shutterstock

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