It had been a long week and Renee Firestone was tired. But when a group of students showed up on Friday at the dark studio where she had spent days answering questions about her life, her mood quickly brightened, her energy restored.
Recharged, Firestone re-entered the wire dome at the USC Institute for Creative Technology, surrounded by a battery of lights and cameras, so the youngsters could pose questions, which ranged from the profound (“Do you believe in God?”) to the commonplace (“Do you have a dog?”).
The high-tech encounter was part of an effort of USC Shoah Foundation and Conscience Display to use the latest technology to preserve the life stories of Holocaust Survivors. Called New Dimensions in Testimony, the project captures 3D recordings of the survivors as they answer a series of questions about their life – Firestone answered about 1,200 queries that focused on her life before, during and after the Holocaust.
When completed, Firestone’s five days of interviews will be transformed into a lifelike 3D interactive experience that uses natural-language technology to answer questions directly to anybody who asks.
“It was very difficult, but the outcome is rewarding,” she said. “I think it’s amazing that this will be able to be seen a hundred years from now. That’s why I’m doing it.”
A pilot of New Dimensions in Testimony was conducted with Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter.
An Auschwitz survivor, the 91-year-old Firestone has a long connection to USC Shoah Foundation. She has been a tireless ambassador for the Institute and a strong voice for other survivors. After the war, she followed her childhood dream of becoming a successful fashion designer.
Ultimately, the interviews will be installed at Holocaust museums across the country.