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Digital Dharma: New AI Language Tool Launched to Help Preserve Tibetan Cultural Heritage

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is introduced to Monlam AI. From instagram.com / monlam.ai

The Monlam Tibetan IT Research Centre, an education software developer based in Dharamsala, northern India, earlier this month launched its new Monlam Artificial Intelligence (AI) software tool to the Tibetan community. The developers hope that the new AI tool will provide a means to help preserve the vast repository of Tibetan cultural heritage—including literature, history, music, and Buddhist texts.

The launch was held on 2 November at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, in the presence of Sikyong Penpa Tsering, sikyong of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) and the CTA’s speaker, Khenpo Sonam Tenphel. Earlier the same day, the developers gave a live demonstration of the Tibetan-language AI software to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. 

“The new features of the software (monlam.ai) were introduced to the audience after a brief opening speech by Geshe Lobsang Monlam, the founder and CEO of the Monlam Tibetan IT Research Centre, [which made] its debut in today’s world of artificial intelligence that has recently drawn massive attention throughout the globe,” the CTA stated in a recent announcement. “This pioneering Tibetan AI tool allows users to access four primary machine-learning models: the Machine Translation Model, the Optical Character Recognition Model, the Speech-to-Text Model, and the Text-to-Speech Model.” (Central Tibetan Administration)

Monlam IT Research Centre executive director Tenzin Nyima. From twitter.com
Geshe Lobsang Monlam during the launch event for Monlam AI. From twitter.com

Lauded as a breakthrough in Tibetan educational software development, Monlam AI uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to translate written and spoken Tibetan into English, Chinese, and other languages, much faster and more accurately than existing translation software.

“One of the many capabilities of this AI tool is that it will increase the efficiency and accuracy of translating Tibetan religious texts, teachings, and literary writings,” Geshe Lobsang explained. “Also, in the initial phase of experimenting with this AI tool, some Tibetan and non-Tibetan translators have observed that these tools will not only speed up the process, but also facilitate a better setting in this fast-evolving environment.” (RFA)

Geshe Lobsang added that Monlam Tibetan IT Research Centre developers were working on further functionalities that would recognize Tibetan religious manuscripts within images carved on wood and convert them into digital text. 

Geshe Lobsang Monlam during the launch event for Monlam AI. From twitter.com

“The launch of Monlam AI represents a significant step forward for the Tibetan community, as it embraces modern technology to preserve its cultural heritage and facilitate communication in the digital age,” the Tibet Rights Collective, a Delhi-based advocacy and policy research group, said in a statement following the launch event. “With the support of prominent leaders like Sikyong Penpa Tsering and Speaker Khenpo Sonam Tenphel, the Monlam AI tool holds the promise of making valuable contributions to the Tibetan diaspora and beyond.” (Tibet Rights Collective)

Geshe Lobsang was born in Amdo Ngaba in Tibet, and was ordained as a monk at Trosig Monastery after completing primary school. He began tantric and liturgical studies at the age of 16, as well as traditional thangkha painting. After fleeing to India in 1993, he became a student at Seramey Monastery University, studying Buddhist philosophy for 16 years.

Geshe Lobsang founded Monlam Tibetan IT Research Centre 2012, under the guidance of the Dalai Lama, with a focus on developing software, fonts, and other digital tools related to Tibetan language and culture. He contributed to the standardization of fonts for the Tibetan script, developing the first Monlam Tibetan Font in 2005.  

In 2022, Geshe Lobsang and a team of more than 150 editors and staff published the Grand Monlam Tibetan Dictionary of more than 360,000 words, which has given rise to 37 apps and a website. The nine-year undertaking, which was supported by the Dalai Lama Trust, has helped to preserve and disseminate the Tibetan Buddhist teachings.

See more

Monlam AI
སྨོན་ལམ་ཚིག་མཛོད་ཆེན་མོ་།
Sikyong Penpa Tsering Attends Launch of First-ever Tibetan AI Tool Developed by Monlam IT Research Centre (Central Tibetan Administration)
Monlam Tibetan IT Research Centre Unveils Pioneering AI Tool, A Historic Moment In Education Software Development (Tibet Rights Collective)
New Tibetan translation software harnesses AI to preserve language (RFA)

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