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See Me, Feel Me, Touch Screen

Can technology produce empathy? A powerful new installation says yes

INTERACTIVE

THE LIFE-SIZE IMAGE OF PINCHAS Gutter on a video screen, fidgeting, blinking and tapping his foot, seemed present and alive in the way portraits do in the magical world of Harry Potter. The Holocaust survivor, who lives in Toronto, was nowhere near the Museum of Jewish Heritage on the day I visited, but by stepping up to a podium, clicking on a mouse and speaking into a microphone, I was able to ask Gutter questions. His image responded with answers—speech quirks, pauses and gestures included. He spoke to me about religion and sports; he shared his favorite Yiddish joke; I hear he sometimes sings. Gutter also told me that he was a happy child until September 1, 1939, when Hitler’s armies invaded Poland and World War II began. Soon after, his father was taken away and beaten nearly to death. After that, he said, “I knew that life wouldn’t be the same.”

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