From Holocaust To Holograms

From Holocaust To Holograms

My father told me last week how my mom had awoken in the middle of night full of fearful, vivid memories of the Holocaust.

In particular, she remembers when she was just a six year-old little girl, walking down the street in Germany, and suddenly the Nazi S.S. came up behind them and dragged her father off to the concentration camp, Buchenwald–leaving her alone, afraid, and crying on the street. And so started their personal tale of oppression, survival, and escape.

Unfortunately, with an aging generation of Holocaust survivors–soon there won’t be anyone to tell the stories of persecution and genocide for others to learn from.

In light of this, as you can imagine, I was very pleased to see the University of Southern California (USC) Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and the USC Shoah Foundation collaborating on a project called “New Dimensions In Testimony” to use technology to maintain the enduring lessons of the Holocaust into the future.

The project involves developing holograms of Holocaust survivors giving testimony about what happened to them and their families during this awful period of discrimination, oppression, torture, and mass murder.

ICT is using a technology called Light Stage that uses multiple high-fidelity cameras and lighting from more than 150 directions to capture 3-D holograms.

There are some interesting videos about Light Stage (which has been used for many familiar movies from Superman to Spiderman, Avatar, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) at their Stage 5 and Stage 6 facilities.

To make the holograms into a full exhibit, the survivors are interviewed and their testimony is combined with natural language processing, so people can come and learn in a conversational manner with the Holocaust survivor holograms.

Mashable reports that these holograms may be used at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. where visitors will talk “face-to-face” with the survivors about their personal experiences–and we will be fortunate to hear it directly from them. 😉

(Photo from USC ICT New Dimensions In Technology)

>Conversational Computing and Enterprise Architecture

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In MIT Technology Review, 19 September 2007, in an article entitled “Intelligent, Chatty Machines” by Kate Green, the author describes advances in computers’ ability to understand and respond to conversation. No, really.

Conversational computing works by using a “set of algorithms that convert strings of words into concepts and formulate a wordy response.”

The software product that enables this is called SILVIA and it works like this: “during a conversation, words are turned into conceptual data…SILVIA takes these concepts and mixes them with other conceptual data that’s stored in short-term memory (information from the current discussion) or long-term memory (information that has been established through prior training sessions). Then SILVIA transforms the resulting concepts back into human language. Sometimes the software might trigger programs to run on a computer or perform another task required to interact with the outside world. For example, it could save a file, query a search engine, or send an e-mail.”

There has been much research done over the years in natural-language processing technology, but the results so far have not fully met expectations. Still, the time will come when we will be talking with our computers, just like on Star Trek, although I don’t know if we’ll be saying quite yet “Beam me up, Scotty.”

From an enterrpise architecture standpoint, the vision of conversational artificial intelligence is absolutely incredible. Imagine the potential! This would change the way we do everyday mission and business tasks. Everything would be affected from how we execute and support business functions and processes, and how we use, access, and share information. Just say the word and it’s done! Won’t that be sweet?

I find it marvelous to imagine the day when we can fully engage with our technology on a more human level, such as through conversation. Then we can say goodbye to the keyboard and mouse, the way we did to the typewriter–which are just museum pieces now.