Are We There Yet?

Holograms add new dimension to Holocaust survivor's story

If you have a story you want future generations to hear, you can always write a memoir. But modern technology is on the verge of enabling a much richer experience: a holographic display that makes it appear as if you're in the room with the viewer, and a life's worth of stories available for the asking.That's the promise of the University of Southern California's New Dimensions in Testimony project, and while the recording process is strenuous, the results are remarkable.

The storyteller sits in a chair with a green screen behind them, watched by more than 50 cameras that record every move from every angle. The resulting image is shown on a special glasses-free 3-D display and adjusted to make it look like the person is actually in the room.

The project's first subject was Pinchas Gutter, a Holocaust survivor, who was asked to tell his story, then was asked hundreds of follow-up questions. A computer cataloged and analyzed his responses, and when the story is complete, viewers can simply ask their own questions and a suitable answer will be selected and played back by the lifelike hologram.

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TODAY
A hologram of a holocaust survivor.

This allows not just for stories to be experienced as if the teller is physically there, complete with gestures and expressions, but also for those hearing it to further investigate in a natural way.

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Gutter in the "Light Stage" used to capture the 3-D image.

"This technology really will change the world," said Stephen Smith, executive director of USC's Shoah Foundation, an institute dedicated to multimedia records of genocide survivors. "Because on the one hand, you're going to get access to historical figures, and on the other hand, you can talk to your great-great-grandchildren as if you're really there. That's a really big change to the way in which we hand down our lives to future generations."

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