“Eternal Egypt”

IBM and the Egyptian government provide worldwide access to Egypt’s cultural heritage

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CAIRO, EGYPT - 24 Feb 2004: An extraordinary partnership between the Egyptian government and IBM has created "Eternal Egypt," providing worldwide access to more than 5,000 years of Egyptian history. Dr. Ahmed Nazif, Minister of Communications and Information Technology, and Hans Ulrich Maerki, General Manager, IBM Europe, Middle East and Africa, held a press conference today to discuss the project.

"This partnership has joined one of the world's oldest civilizations with the latest innovations in IBM technology," Dr. Nazif said. "The outcome represents the richest repository of information and media about Egyptian cultural history available on the Web today."

IBM funded the project through a U.S. $2.5 million grant of technology and expertise from its Research and Services teams in the U.S. and Egypt. The Egyptian government contributed a team of experts who developed the rich content of the system.

The Eternal Egypt project combines the most important locations, artifacts, people and stories from Egypt's history into an interactive multimedia experience. Three years in the making, the project has so far produced multimedia animations, 360-degree image sequences, panoramas of important locations, virtual environments, three-dimensional scans, real-time photos from Web cameras and thousands of high resolution images of ancient artifacts that weave together more than five millennia of Egyptian culture and civilization.

"Working in partnership with the Egyptian government, IBM's Eternal Egypt project has greatly enhanced accessibility to Egyptian culture in the networked world, and will have positive implications for education, tourism and national development," IBM's Maerki said.

For the first time ever visitors to the new Eternal Egypt Web site at www.eternalegypt.org can enter a virtual reconstruction of Tutankhamun's tomb as it looked the day Howard Carter discovered the chamber in 1922, or view the Lighthouse of Alexandria as it appeared before it was destroyed in the 14th century. Viewers even can examine the face of the Sphinx as it looked 2,000 years ago.

"All combined, the new technology has made it possible to see Egypt in ways we never imagined -- to see our country as it was thousands of years ago," said Dr. Fathi Saleh, director of the Egyptian Center for the Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CultNat). "This collaboration has produced the means to make Egyptian cultural heritage known worldwide -- not just the era of the pharaohs, but our entire heritage."

The Eternal Egypt project includes three individual components focused on the collections "inside the walls" of prominent museums all around Egypt, historic sites throughout the country, and a virtual museum available to anyone, anywhere in the world with Internet access. These components are all based on an interconnected set of artifacts, places, and characters that form a complex content database.

The museum inside the walls
The museum inside walls has produced handheld Digital Guides that go beyond traditional audio-only devices to offer in-depth text, images and animation to increase understanding of the artifacts found in the museum. Digital Guides enable visitors to take thematic tours of the museum or to explore it by room, artifact or picture.

Audio narration for the Digital Guide is in three languages: English, French and Arabic. The audio is based on IBM's advanced synthetically-generated text-to-speech technology that has never before been applied to Arabic.

The museum outside the walls
The second component of the project is the mobile access guided tours of the Temple of Luxor and the Pyramids of Giza, enabling visitors to access the same information available on the handheld Digital Guides and the Eternal Egypt web site, but through their cell phones while touring various locations. The technology allows visitors to take established tours or to download information to match their particular location.

The museum without walls
The centerpiece of the project is the Eternal Egypt Web site, which includes high-resolution images and three-dimensional reconstructions of the Egyptian antiquities, as well as virtually-reconstructed environments, 360 degree images, and panoramic views of present-day Egypt captured by web cameras at such locations as Karnak Temple in Luxor and Qait Bey in Alexandria.