The multidisciplinary “Time Machine” Project (Coordination and Support Action, CSA) officially started on March 1st with partners from humanities, social sciences and information technology with a grant of one million euros for a one-year phase in which a detailed plan for the Flagship project scheduled for 10 years will be developed. "Europe's past has never had such a perspective," said ICARUS President and „Time Machine” co-initiator Thomas Aigner. The Time Machine Project connects academic and research organizations, cultural heritage institutions and private enterprises from across Europe. With ICARUS, the National Library and the Technical University (TU) Vienna, about ten percent of the founding members are coming from Austria, there are currently around 30 other partners coming from all over the Europe.
According to Thomas Aigner, the goal of the Project is a kind of enabling "big data" for historical documents and artifacts. The Time Machine will create advanced AI technologies to make sense of vast amounts of information from complex historical data sets. This will enable the transformation of fragmented data – with content ranging from medieval manuscripts and historical objects to smartphone and satellite images – into useable knowledge for industry. In essence, a large-scale computing and digitization infrastructure will map Europe’s entire social, cultural and geographical evolution. The project’s examples in Austria are large-scale document archives in Lower Austria and St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna. The various types of documents, such as baptismal, marriage and death or land registers will be made automatically transcribable, and the obtained data will be ascribed and intertwined. It opens a wide range of opportunities, for example, family history research, where the main complexity is not just finding the documents, but also their poor readability due to ancient handwriting. In the future the artificial intelligence will enable to provide digitized documents automatically readable.
With new opportunities brought by digitization, big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI) and computer visualization this entire database could be better leveraged and at the same time easier accessible to non-experts. The data will be ascribed to locations and tangible in three dimensions with completely new visualization technologies. For example, it should be possible to „move” digitally one village back to the year 1700. With one click on a house one will have the data about the persons connected to this house. This allows all interested persons to become a researcher and to go "deep in the social networks", provided by JOANNEUM RESEARCH. JOANNEUM RESEARCH aims to contribute with their expertise in analysing audiovisual archive content, machine learning, handling of heterogeneous metadata and to connect a large group of archives and museums in German speaking countries via their DIGITAL.culture product family.