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As they sat in the ICT auditorium, an interactive video projection of Holocaust survivor Pinchas Gutter appeared on the large screen in front of them. Even before he spoke, the moving image of Gutter sitting in his chair appeared so real that junior Adam Hart waved to him and said hello.
The students were getting a preview of New Dimensions in Testimony, an educational collaboration between the USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education and ICT designed to permit students far into the future to “talk” with Holocaust survivors about their life experiences.
After an explanation of the interactive system, Hart followed up with a question about Gutter’s favorite food. ICT natural language technologies retrieved an appropriate response from a database of Gutter’s prerecorded answers, and students were treated to a touching story about how Gutter so loved the roast goose his mother used to prepare when he was a boy that he would steal the drumsticks before dinner was served.
“I felt like he was right here in the room, and I was really talking to him,” said Hart, who aspires to use technology in a career as a music producer.
Computer science comes to life
Bringing computer science to life is exactly what Emily White, ICT facilities director and a former Foshay parent, had in mind when she arranged the visit for the technology-focused students of Foshay, which is one of the five USC Family of Schools.
We want them to think about how they can use technology when they get out of school or go to college.
“We want them to think about how they can use technology when they get out of school or go to college,” White said. “My goal was to inspire them with all the exciting things at ICT.
Institute personnel led demonstrations of several immersive health, education and entertainment technologies and discussions of potential computer-related career paths from game design to information technology.
“The field trip to USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies was amazing for my students and me,” said Leslie Aaronson, director of the Foshay Tech Academy. “It opened our eyes to the future of technology and gave us hands-on experience. My students made connections to what we do in class to what is happening in the working world.”
Students got a firsthand look at ICT’s virtual reality tools being developed to detect and treat post-traumatic stress, and they learned about the science behind ICT’s process for creating photo real digital doubles for films, video games and ICT training applications.
“Two of my biggest passions are technology and helping the world,” said Foshay junior Katerin Ortega. “Today I’ve seen some great examples that show how technology can make a change. It has been really inspiring.”
The students weren’t the only ones who were inspired. Their enthusiasm and knowledge left an impression on ICT staff and researchers.
“They asked great questions and really wanted to learn,” said Skip Rizzo, ICT’s director of medical virtual reality. “The next generation of impactful technologies is going to come from today’s students so it was really exciting to see these kids so engaged.”