By Lynn Zimmerman
Editor, Teacher Education
As part of their programming on April 8, 2013, which was Holocaust Remembrance Day, WBUR Here & Now broadcast a story that illustrated a unique approach using technology to preserve the stories of Holocaust survivors. World War II and the Holocaust ended in 1945. Therefore, those who survived those years are aging and dying. Over the past 20 years there have been numerous attempts to preserve the stories of those who survived, from films to audio recordings, documentaries to webcasts.
Simulated Holographic Video of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter speaking to a class of students. Published on YouTube, 8 Feb. 2013.
The University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation and Institute for Creative Technologies have come up with the most unusual to date — they are creating holographic images of survivors that not only tell the person’s story but can also interact with the audience, answering their questions. When asked how they were able to do this, Paul Debevec, Associate Director of USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies, answered that they spent about 12 hours with each participating survivor, asking them every conceivable question one might ask a Holocaust survivor to generate a database of answers using artificial intelligence technology. Stephen Smith, executive director of the Shoah Foundation, remarked that the Foundation has 52,000 testimonies and they have a lot of experience in what survivors want to talk about and what questions students ask.
The idea is that this technology is a way to give children of the future a chance to see, hear and interact with a Holocaust survivor long after the last one has gone. The interviewer was concerned that the idea was rather ghoulish. However, Smith, assured her that this was not the case. He explained that is like watching very good quality 3-D TV.
It is expected that the technology will be available for museums within the next year or two. Debevec predicts that this technology will be economically feasible for everyone in the future.
You can see Pinchas Gutter’s simulacrum at http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/04/08/holocaust-survivor-holograms
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