There are thought to be over 500,000 Holocaust survivors worldwide. The average age of a survivor is 79 and nearly a quarter of them are 85 or older.
While many elderly Holocaust survivors leave behind rich narratives of their lives through manuscripts, oral histories or art work, many do not. Some fear that as this aging generation fades away, so too will the personal accounts of the horrors they experienced. In an age of Holocaust deniers like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the preservation of survivors’ oral histories is even more critical.
Taking this preservation into the 21st Century is a group led by the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation who, for the last 18 months, have been creating three-dimensional holograms of nearly a dozen Holocaust survivors. The project is called New Dimensions in Testimony.
John Roger’s recent article in the Associated Press told the story of 80-year-old Pinchus Gutter and how he was filmed for hours in 3-D, in front of a green screen, over the course of five days as he answered some 500 questions about his life and experiences. USC researchers are still editing the footage and working with voice recognition software so that Gutter’s hologram will not only tell his story, it will be able to recognize and respond to questions.
Once Gutter’s holographic doppelgänger is finished, visitors to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. could find themselves talking face-to-face with him and the holograms of other Holocaust survivors. According the AP article, this could happen within the next one to five years.
“Having actually put it together, it’s clear this will happen,” Paul Debevec told the AP. Debevec is associate director of the university’s Institute for Creative Technologies, which is creating the hologram project’s infrastructure. The institute has also worked on Hollywood films such as “Avatar” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”
Ever since deceased rapper Tupac Shakur made a beyond-the-grave, 3-D hologram-like appearance at last year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, hologram tech has gained footing in popular consciousness. However, technically, Tupac’s image wasn’t a hologram because it was projected onto a thin sheet invisible to the audience.
“This takes it one step further as far as you won’t be projecting onto a screen, you’ll be projecting into space,” Stephen Smith, the Shoah Foundation’s executive director said of the project.
Credit: Institute for Creative Technologies