Time Machine project looks to map 5,000 years of European history

Time Machine project looks to map 5,000 years of European history

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Time Machine FET FlagshipThe Time Machine FET Flagship has announced that it has passed the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme’s first stage of evaluation for bids for the euro 1-billion funding available for new Flagships. 

The Time Machine project is an international collaborative project to build a Large Scale Historical Simulator mapping 5,000 years of European history. It has brought together academic research teams, public organizations and digital companies from all over Europe, and comprises of over 170 institutions, ranging from the major European museums to leading companies in the field of digitization and artificial intelligence.

The decision, approved by the European Commission, allows the project to submit a full proposal for the second stage of evaluation later this year.

 A total of 33 projects from across Europe applied for the Horizon 2020 Flagship funding, which is intended for visionary, science-driven, large-scale research initiatives. Only the Time Machine project and 16 others were selected for the second round – a vital validation of the Time Machine’s scope and efforts. These efforts include the digitization of millions of historical documents, paintings and monuments, and the digital transfer of these data into the largest historical computer simulation ever developed.

First proposed to the European Commission in April 2016, the project has since primarily focused on the historical recreation of Venice, but work is already in progress to digitise and simulate other European regions including Amsterdam, Paris, Antwerp and Budapest. As a free-to-use public resource, the Time Machine will act as the most interactive and detailed historical educational tool ever created, with invaluable uses for schools, universities, policy makers and urban planners.

As an additional benefit, the unique computer simulation technology that is being developed for the project will firmly place Europe as a world leader in the race to innovate artificial intelligence. On surpassing the Framework’s first stage of evaluation, Professor Frédéric Kaplan, Director of the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne Digital Humanities laboratory said: “This is a first step towards a crucial goal, not just for European cultural heritage, but for the world’s cultural heritage.”

 Julia Noordegraaf, Professor of Digital Heritage at the University of Amsterdam, said: “We’re delighted with the announcement.”

“It’s a wonderful recognition of the project’s potential and it means that we can now further develop our plan of action to make the Time Machine possible.”

About the Time Machine FET Flagship

The FET Flagship is structured around the development of a large-scale digitisation and computing infrastructure mapping millennia of European historical and geographical evolution, transforming kilometres of archives, large collections from museums and other geo-historical datasets into a distributed digital information system. To succeed, a series of fundamental breakthroughs are targeted in artificial intelligence, robotics and IT, boosting these enabling technologies in Europe. Massive digitisation infrastructures and high-performance computing will be coupled with machine learning techniques to produce a multi-scale simulation of more than 5000 years of history.

The Time Machine will make Europe the leader in the extraction and analysis of big data of the past. It will profoundly transform research methods and practices in the humanities, allowing bolder questions to be asked and new levels of understanding to be reached. It will bring a new era of open access to sources, where past and on-going research will become open sciences. This constant source of new knowledge will be an economic motor, giving rise to new professions, new services and new products, impacting not only on education, cultural heritage and creative industries, but also policy making, and economic societal and environmental modeling.

The Time Machine is based on Europe’s unique assets — its long history, its multilingualism and multiculturalism. It is designed to bring together European research institutions, cultural heritage stakeholders, decision makers, businesses and the general public in a unique endeavour: turning the history of Europe into a living resource for co-creating its future.