In Codice Ratio


The Vatican Secret Archives are the stuff of legend. Reportedly filling some 85 kilometers of shelving in Vatican City, they contain the private letters and other documents of past popes. Just a few millimeter worth of pages have been scanned and made available online. Even fewer pages have been transcribed into computer text and made searchable. If you want to peruse anything else, you have to apply for special access, schlep all the way to Rome, and go through every page by hand. But a new project could change all that. Known as In Codice Ratio, it uses a combination of artificial intelligence and optical-character-recognition (OCR) software to scour these neglected texts and make their transcripts available for the very first time. If successful, the technology could also open up untold numbers of other documents at historical archives around the world. In Codice Ratio sidesteps these problems through a new approach to handwritten OCR.