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Microsoft adds cultural heritage to artificial intelligence programme


Cultural heritage has become the latest focus for Microsoft in its AI for Good portfolio – a five-year commitment to using artificial intelligence to tackle some of society’s biggest challenges.

Already included in the US$125m (€111.4m, £100.6m) programme are AI for Earth (providing for tools for startups working to protect the planet), AI for Accessibility and AI for Humanitarian Action.

AI for Cultural Heritage is the fourth pillar of the programme and follows on from a number of projects that Microsoft has been working on.

These have included using artificial intelligence to make the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Open Access collection accessible to the internet-connected world, a new museum experience in France with mixed reality and AI paying homage to Mont-Saint-Michel, off the coast of Normandy, and preservation of endangered languages in Mexico.

“As we have learned more about the dimensions that make up cultural heritage, we’ve concluded that preserving cultural heritage isn’t something that is solely nice to have or nice to do, it’s sometimes imperative to the well-being of the world’s societies,” said Microsoft president Brad Smith. 

“We’ve realised that this work deserves more than a handful of projects. That’s why we’re bringing these efforts together in a more comprehensive programme that will explore and pursue new opportunities with institutions around the world.”

Microsoft says it wants to use artificial intelligence to work with non-profit organisations, universities and governments around the world to “help preserve the languages we speak, the places we live and the artefacts we treasure”. 

Google is also using artificial intelligence on a number of research and engineering projects, through its AI for Social Good programme, including forecasting of flooding, predicting risk of heart attacks using retinal imagery, and mapping global fishing activity.

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