Art history, computer science programs collaborate to launch Artful Algorithms project. E-News

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Artificial intelligence is more prominent than ever, providing information to learners around the world. However, when AI systems fail to provide in-depth information about ancient cultures, it hinders the ability to preserve and understand history.

Megan Light, professor of art history, is leading the Artful Algorithms project that could potentially change how AI learns and preserves the ancient languages ​​necessary to understand our world.

Supported by a grant from the WVU Humanities Center, the project explores the impact of AI on ancient Maya glyph decipherment.

Light said the idea for the project came from Maya Script's frustrating lack of familiarity with the most advanced AI systems, limiting research and education.

The project is a cross-university collaboration between the Art History Program in the College of Creative Arts and the Computer Science Program in the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering.

Prashana Gayawali, assistant professor of computer science, serves as co-principal investigator.

Students from both programs worked on the initial dataset this spring and will be hired this summer to help build a database capable of recognizing and distinguishing Maya glyphs. The ultimate goal is to design an AI framework that can translate the glyph blocks in ancient Maya art.

“The explosion of data in fields such as natural image processing has demonstrated the remarkable capabilities of these models in tasks such as object classification, segmentation and recognition. However, a similar depth of interpretation for Maya written images, which is effective AI is important for training models, especially missing,” Gyawali explained in an overview of the project.

Understanding ancient texts is critical to understanding how civilizations survived, and the Artful Algorithms project aims to advance understanding of ancient Maya culture by making gulf decipherment more accessible.

“By leveraging AI innovations to critically assess the potential and challenges of using AI to decipher Maya script, our goal is to advance understanding of the foundations of ancient Maya civilization,” Lett said.

Once complete, the goal is to make the dataset publicly available to help others teach their AI systems to work. Light and Gyawali will present the project at an academic conference and anticipate publication in a peer-reviewed journal.

“We think this kind of AI programming is the future for understanding language — building creative AI models to learn and analyze ancient texts and images,” Light said. “The Vesuvius Challenge was popularized in February 2024 using AI to visualize text on burnt scrolls from Herculaneum. Maya glyphs are the next frontier for AI and language interpretation, and this project is our first step into this challenging interdisciplinary field. which relies on working with humanities scholars, data scientists and researchers.”

Learn more about the Art History program.

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