Schoolchildren and students of the Holocaust will soon be able to access the
testimony of survivors, even after they have passed on, in the form of
interactive, three-dimensional holograms courtesy of a new initiative of the
University of Southern California.
The project, “New Dimensions in
Testimony,” focuses on recording and displaying “testimony in a way that will
continue the dialogue between Holocaust survivors and learners far into the
future,” according to the USC Institute for Creative Technologies.
institute is collaborating with the University’s Shoah Foundation and private
technology company Conscience Display.
Participating survivors sit in a
room whose walls are covered with cameras and LED lighting and tell their
personal stories while being recorded from all angles.
holograms are integrated with “natural language technology” similar to the
iPhone’s personal assistant Siri or the Android platform’s Google Now, “which
will allow people to engage with the testimonies conversationally by asking
questions that trigger relevant, spoken responses,” USC said.
now, long after the last survivor has passed on, the New Dimensions in Testimony
project can provide a path to enable young people to listen to a survivor and
ask their own questions directly, encouraging them, each in their own way, to
reflect on the deep and meaningful consequences of the Holocaust.”
video of a “classroom concept” posted by USC on YouTube, a holographic
projection of survivor Pinchas Gutter can be seen answering questions by
“My name is Pinchas Gutter. I will answer any questions you
might have for me,” he began.
Asked how old Gutter was when the war
ended, the holographic setup automatically begins playing the testsubject’s
“I was between the ages of 13 and 14 when the war ended in
1945,” the hologram states.
Afterward, in response to another question,
the projection of Gutter begins to sing a Polish lullaby that his mother had
sung to him before the war.
This program is not the first such
undertaking coming out of USC.
American-Jewish filmmaker Steven Spielberg
and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education compiled
over 50,000 testimonies from the world’s dwindling population of Holocaust
survivors, the videos of which are available through memorials like Yad
However, speaking to technology website Cnet on Monday, USC
professor Paul Debevec said the effect that a three dimensional hologram gives
exceeds the experience of watching a video of a person who was filmed some time
ago somewhere else, adding that the timing of this project is of the
“I think it’s going to be considerably more engaging and
immersive and moving than if they’re just up there on a video screen,” he said.
“We lose many of our survivors every year. We definitely feel the sense of
urgency and that realistically it’s going to be now or never.”
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said the urgency to hear the life stories from
survivors is great, as time is running out and many do not know the
“The testimony of the survivors who personally experienced the
horrors of the Shoah, are the legacy that they impart to us. Their testimony has
crucial educational and moral importance... This is essential in an era where
the generation of Holocaust survivors is dwindling and the demand for knowledge
in these areas is growing.”
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