Skip to main content

New Dimensions in Testimony: Digitally Preserving a Holocaust Survivor’s Interactive Storytelling

  • Conference paper
  • First Online:
Interactive Storytelling (ICIDS 2015)


We describe a digital system that allows people to have an interactive conversation with a human storyteller (a Holocaust survivor) who has recorded a number of dialogue contributions, including many compelling narratives of his experiences and thoughts. The goal is to preserve as much as possible of the experience of face-to-face interaction. The survivor’s stories, answers to common questions, and testimony are recorded in high fidelity, and then delivered interactively to an audience as responses to spoken questions. People can ask questions and receive answers on a broad range of topics including the survivor’s experiences before, after and during the war, his attitudes and philosophy. Evaluation results show that most user questions can be addressed by the system, and that audiences are highly engaged with the resulting interaction.

As survivors dwindle, what will this mean for memories of the Holocaust?

The Independent [6].

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD 39.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 54.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Artstein, R., Leuski, A., Maio, H., Mor-Barak, T., Gordon, C., Traum, D.: How many utterances are needed to support time-offset interaction? In: Proceedings of FLAIRS-28, pp. 144–149. AAAI Press, Hollywood, Florida, May 2015

    Google Scholar 

  2. Artstein, R., Traum, D., Alexander, O., Leuski, A., Jones, A., Georgila, K., Debevec, P., Swartout, W., Maio, H., Smith, S.: Time-offset interaction with a Holocaust survivor. In: Proceedings of IUI 2014, pp. 163–168. Haifa, Israel, February 2014

    Google Scholar 

  3. Bar-On, D.: Importance of testimonies in Holocaust education. Dimensions Online: A Journal of Holocaust Studies 17(1) (2003).

  4. Bohus, D., Rudnicky, A.I.: Sorry, I didn’t catch that! - An investigation of non-understanding errors and recovery strategies. In: Proceedings of SIGDIAL, Lisbon, Portugal, pp. 128–143, September 2005

    Google Scholar 

  5. Chabot, L.: Nixon library technology lets visitors ‘interview’ him. Los Angeles Times, 21 July 1990.

  6. Dejevsky, M.: As survivors dwindle, what will this mean for memories of the Holocaust? The Independent, 5 January 2014

    Google Scholar 

  7. Einarsson, P., Chabert, C.F., Jones, A., Ma, W.C., Lamond, B., Hawkins, T., Bolas, M., Sylwan, S., Debevec, P.: Relighting human locomotion with flowed reflectance fields. In: Proceedings of the 17th Eurographics Symposium on Rendering, pp. 183–194 (2006).

  8. Gustafson, J., Lindberg, N., Lundeberg, M.: The August spoken dialogue system. In: Proceedings of Eurospeech 1999 (1999)

    Google Scholar 

  9. Kim, K.A.: New Dimensions in Testimony: Findings from student pilots. Internal report, USC Shoah Foundation, August 2015

    Google Scholar 

  10. Leuski, A., Pair, J., Traum, D., McNerney, P.J., Georgiou, P., Patel, R.: How to talk to a hologram. In: Proceedings of IUI 2006, pp. 360–362 (2006)

    Google Scholar 

  11. Leuski, A., Patel, R., Traum, D., Kennedy, B.: Building effective question answering characters. In: Proceedings of SIGDIAL, Sydney, Australia, July 2006

    Google Scholar 

  12. Leuski, A., Traum, D.: NPCEditor: Creating virtual human dialogue using information retrieval techniques. AI Mag. 32(2), 42–56 (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  13. Levoy, M., Hanrahan, P.: Light field rendering. In: Proceedings of SIGGRAPH 1996, pp. 31–42 (1996).

  14. Lieberman, L.: Using testimony in the classroom. Dimensions Online: A Journal of Holocaust Studies 17(1) (2003).

  15. Marinelli, D., Stevens, S.: Synthetic interviews: The art of creating a ‘dyad’ between humans and machine-based characters. In: Proceedings of MULTIMEDIA 1998, pp. 11–16 (1998).

  16. Schechter, D.: After the survivors: Facing a future without Holocaust witnesses. Atlanta Jewish Times, 9 April 2015

    Google Scholar 

  17. Sloss, E., Watzman, A.: Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center conjures up Benjamin Franklin’s ghost. Press release, Carnegie Mellon Media Relations, 28 June 2005.

  18. Traum, D., Georgila, K., Artstein, R., Leuski, A.: Evaluating spoken dialogue processing for time-offset interaction. In: Proceedings of SIGDIAL, Prague, pp. 199–208, September 2015.

  19. Wilburn, B., Joshi, N., Vaish, V., Talvala, E.V., Antunez, E., Barth, A., Adams, A., Horowitz, M., Levoy, M.: High performance imaging using large camera arrays. ACM Trans. Graph. 24(3), 765–776 (2005).

Download references


The New Dimensions in Testimony prototype was made possible by generous donations from private foundations and individuals. We are extremely grateful to The Pears Foundation, Louis F. Smith, and two anonymous donors for their support. We thank the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, the Museum of Tolerance, New Roads School in Santa Monica, and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center for offering their facilities for data collection and testing. We owe special thanks to Pinchas Gutter for sharing his story, and for his tireless efforts to educate the world about the Holocaust.

This work was supported in part by the U.S. Army; statements and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the position or the policy of the United States Government, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding authors

Correspondence to David Traum or Ron Artstein .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2015 Springer International Publishing Switzerland

About this paper

Cite this paper

Traum, D. et al. (2015). New Dimensions in Testimony: Digitally Preserving a Holocaust Survivor’s Interactive Storytelling. In: Schoenau-Fog, H., Bruni, L., Louchart, S., Baceviciute, S. (eds) Interactive Storytelling. ICIDS 2015. Lecture Notes in Computer Science(), vol 9445. Springer, Cham.

Download citation

  • DOI:

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-27035-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-27036-4

  • eBook Packages: Computer ScienceComputer Science (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics