The project was funded by Google’s Digital News Innovation Fund in 2017.
The aim of the project is to bring to life paper archives that are, for the most part, inaccessible to the public, making this historical content available to present and future generations through the latest voice technology.
Through integrations with Amazon Alexa and Google Home smart speakers, users can express commands such as “What happened today in 1934?”, “Tell me the headlines on the Queen’s coronation,” and “Read me an article about the moon landing” – to search the archives and find out what happened on a given day and year, during well-known local events, or at key local areas. In addition to using the smart speakers, users are also able to access the content through a chatbot and search tool.
Careful scanning created a fully digital version of the historic archive, transcribing every single word and their location on the original print. Each word of every article represents a single data point, requiring a solution capable of dealing with sheer volume of data generated at speed, says Archant. At launch, there are over seven million articles in the database.
Bespoke algorithms rebuilt the articles using the scanned content, extracting key entities from each of the archived articles (historical figures, locations, events, and more), organising the content in clusters of topics, to create the voice exploration experience. Finally, users then access these vast archives through the chatbots and smart speakers.
Lorna Willis, Chief Client Officer of Archant said: “The Local Recall project is a fantastic example of how through the innovative use of technology, a whole world of local history from the EDP archives can become available for all to enjoy. We are extremely pleased that this special content is now available not just to read but also to hear and question through world leading chat bot technology.”
Local Recall is available in four different chatbots (Amazon Alexa, Google Home, text chatbot, browser voicebot). Through a centralised artificial intelligence engine, each interaction with any of these four chatbots improves the experience across the others.
Subscriptions to Local Recall start at £5.99 per month.