New Dimensions in Testimony Project and ICT Research Featured in Australia’s Saturday Paper

Published: December 5, 2015
Category: News

The Saturday Paper, an Australian long-form journalism publication, featured New Dimensions in Testimony, a collaboration between the USC Shoah Foundation and ICT. The article describes how ICT’s highly realistic digital display and state-of-the-art speech recognition systems are preserving the ability to ask questions of Holocaust survivors far into the future.
This is a really critical time,” said ICT’s David Traum. “Children today will be the last generation to hear from living survivors.”
The story explains how ICT’s speech recognition and natural language technologies enable the video version of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter to answer questions.
This year, the story noted, Traum’s team reported that the video version of Gutter has answers to more than 95 per cent of the questions people tend to ask him.
The story states that it was a challenge to get the system to understand spoken queries in order for it to find the right answer in its bank of responses.
“It’s a very hard problem,” said ICT’s Kallirroi Georgila.
The article cites ICT research finding that the system gets it right about two thirds of the time and notes that a small study of children who met with a survivor in person as well as the video projection of Gutter showed no “meaningful” differences between their experiences. For future plans the story mentions an ICT prototype that can display people in 3-D and reports that three other Holocaust survivors have been interviewed for the project.
It also discussed other uses for the technology. Traum believes that in time we may all be creating virtual effigies of our loved ones. “The cameras on your phone could record a sick grandfather, so that future generations could have an interactive dialogue with him,” he said. Georgila proposes a virtual companion for the elderly. “If you don’t have anyone to talk to, you could talk to a dialogue system,” she said.