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Holocaust Holograms: The Newest Testimonies

The past and the future meet for a crucial mission

Adam Chandler
February 11, 2013
Rendering of Hologram Testimony. (The Week)
Rendering of Hologram Testimony. (The Week)

As the number of Holocaust survivors diminish, the natural fear is that their stories–some written down, others recorded–will fall hollow on or seem impersonal to future generations. But a new initiative plans to change that by delivering survivor testimonies to students in a way never previously imagined: hologram.

“The effect that it gives is a lot more that that person is there in the room with you than that person was filmed some time ago somewhere else,” says Paul Debevec, a professor of computer science at USC and associate director of graphics research at the school’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT). “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.”

USC is teaming with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, and design firm Conscience Display, to develop installations that let students and others converse with the hyper-photorealistic life-size digital versions of the survivors. Viewers ask questions, and the holograms respond, thanks to Siri-style natural-language technology, also developed at USC, that allows observers to ask questions that trigger relevant, spoken answers.

Simply put, amazing.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.