Al-Masmak Digital: Old Saudi Arabia Brought Back to Life Via Artificial Intelligence

Published January 13th, 2021 - 07:56 GMT
Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud - may God have mercy on him - on behalf of his father on a visit to Britain, under King George V role, where he appears at the time on the way to England on board the English ship Lawrence Rings on the eleventh of August 1919. (Instagram)
Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud - may God have mercy on him - on behalf of his father on a visit to Britain, under King George V role, where he appears at the time on the way to England on board the English ship Lawrence Rings on the eleventh of August 1919. (Instagram)
Highlights
Using artificial intelligence to preserve old photographs and rare film footage for posterity.

A digital museum curator has turned to artificial intelligence (AI) to help bring the history of Saudi Arabia back to the future.

Omar Murshid, who set up Al-Masmak Digital Museum a decade ago, has been painstakingly transforming old black-and-white photographs and rare film footage into color images.


And his preservation project has seen faded images of historic events and landmarks brought back to life.

Murshid established his digital museum in 2011 to be a cultural and recreational platform documenting royal occasions and major events in the Kingdom and has worked on a number of initiatives to revive Saudi heritage with the use of the latest technology.

“I chose a pocket watch that was made in the 1940s, one of the gifts of King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the Saudi foreign minister back then, and used a 3-D scanner to scan it,” he told Arab News.

“Given that this technology is new and still being developed, the results were not perfect, and some gaps appeared on the watch’s structure. Therefore, I had to adjust it manually, which required a lot of time and effort.”


And his latest initiative has involved restoring and enhancing black-and-white pictures and videos.

“I used Adobe Photoshop to colorize the photographs and had to add the colors and adjust the layers manually. It is a long process that requires hours of work.”

Special apps can also automatically identify the color shades seen on black-and-white or sepia photos. But coloring old film footage is a far more complicated process.


 “That is why I had to use the latest AI software. This technology conducts several experiences before showing the result. The software works on decompressing the video into images and frames and coloring each one separately,” he said.

Film featuring the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah during the Hajj season in 1954, and King Abdul Aziz’s historic visit to Egypt in 1946 have been among the images picked for color restoration.

Murshid’s work can be viewed on Al-Masmak account on Instagram.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


Copyright: Arab News © 2021 All rights reserved.

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