USC Shoah Foundation’s interactive New Dimensions in Testimony proved once again to be a popular and educational way to learn about the Holocaust when it was presented at the Future of StoryTelling Festival (FoST FEST) in New York earlier this month.
The festival showcases emerging technologies that find new and meaningful ways to tell stories. While other exhibits focused on entertainment and virtual reality, NDT provided attendees a chance to interact with a projection of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter, who responded directly to thousands of questions.
Envisioned by Heather Maio and produced by USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Stephen Smith, New Dimensions in Testimony uses groundbreaking natural language software that allows audiences to interact with the recorded image of a Holocaust survivor, who responds to questions in real time, powered by complex algorithms providing realistic conversation.
NDT was able to stand out, even though it was it was competing with dozens of virtual- and augmented-reality displays competing for visitor attention. Vice.com called NDT “the most revolutionary experience” at the three-day event.
In addition to the public technological displays, the festival also featured an invitation-only summit of leaders in diverse fields. Stephen Smith spoke at this gathering and demonstrated NDT to the audience.
This was the second festival where the Institute showcased NDT. In June, it won both the jury and the audience awards at the Sheffield Doc/Fest in England.
Visitors who had not heard about New Dimensions in Testimony before were often stunned at how responsive it is and how Gutter seemed to be live in the room with them. One teenager was startled when Gutter responded with a proper greeting when she sarcastically asked “Whazup?”
Officials from several museums also expressed interest in the project, noting how the technology could enhance many of their exhibits.
To date, 11 survivors in addition to Gutter have been filmed for New Dimensions in Testimony. They include Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, an accomplished cellist who played in the Women's Orchestra at Auschwitz, and Eva Kor, who founded a Holocaust museum in Indiana.