Tre University IT professor Paolo Merialdo is developing AI to read and transcribe the more than 53 miles of maze-like corridors in the Vatican’s “Secret Archives,” which are the correspondence of popes going back to the 8th century, almost all in Latin and written in a variety of different and sometimes hard-to-recognize styles. He is working on this by showing 600 Italian students medieval Latin letters written by different church scribes and styles, then asking them to identify the letters. This labeled dataset was then fed to the computer, along with scanned copies of letters by 13th-century Pope Honorius III, for training. So far, the optical character recognition (OCR) and AI system, known as In Codice Ratio has an accuracy rate of 65 percent, but the researchers are aiming for 95 percent in the next couple of years. Who knows what’s buried in these massive “secret archives” going back more than 1,000 years, but considering some of the sad and disturbing revelations by the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania this week, it may not all be pretty.
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