History Meets Innovation: Big Data Hackathon with Yad Vashem

For 70 years the dedicated people at Yad Vashem have listened, gathered, protected and curated. Now we make their data come alive.

By Alon Mei-Raz, Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

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During October 2015, the Haven OnDemand team joined forces with HPE labs to conduct a two weeks hackathon with one of the world’s most important historical institutions called Yad Vashem. The main mission of Yad Vashem is to safeguard the memory of the Holocaust and impart its meaning for future generations. Since 1953 it is the world center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust. Throughout the years, Yad Vashem has collected huge amounts of data which includes survivors’ testimonies in various formats: text documents, scanned documents and photos, audio and video recordings. The challenge they faced at Yad Vashem was to make all of this data easily accessible to the target audience via the organization’s website and to be able to interact with the users.

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October’s hackathon, powered by the Haven OnDemand technology, was aimed to meet this challenge. The goal was to find new and innovative ways to bring 70 years of collected history to future generations around the world. “For 70 years the dedicated people at Yad Vashem have listened, gathered, protected and curated. Now we make their data come alive”.

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40 ideas were submitted by over 200 participants, who were supported by 20 mentors from the Haven OnDemand and HPE labs teams. 16 ideas were chosen to be presented to the panel of judges at the closing event held at the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem. The teams analyzed thousands of hours of audio and video content, as well as text and images to identify ways of presenting the information in a modern, accessible, social media-friendly manner. While all of the ideas presented were innovative and pioneering, the panel was clear in its choice of winners.

So here are the winning ideas:

1st Place: Testimonies Become Searchable

As the name suggests, the winning app was aimed to enable direct and accurate searchability for the huge number of testimonies accumulated by Yad Vashem. They used the speech recognition API with the audio testimonies and the OCR API to extract the text from the scanned testimonies documents. This allowed them to create a compelling search experience on top of the text they extracted from all this data, which wasn’t previously searchable.

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2nd Place: Testimonies to the ADHD-Affiliated Generation

In this day and age, young people are used to consuming data consists out of short messages. Therefore, we can’t expect them to watch a five hours long testimony. In order to address this problem, the developers created an app for manually tagging the testimonies and categorizing the video testimonies in order to make it easier to navigate through the long clips.

3rd Place: Testimonies in Context

This team developed a useful solution for integrating Yad Vashem testimonies with chronological information from the Second World War and the Holocaust to enable a more complete historical picture. Their app presents an interactive timeline over a dynamic map with relevant and interesting details about events, locations, people and more.

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Bio: Alon is a senior product manager in the HP Big Data cloud platform group. He has vast experience in bringing ideas to life, from early ideation and planning to development and marketing. Alon specializes in the Big Data and Mobility fields, and has held various software management roles. He holds a B.Sc. in computer science, a B.A. in economics, and an M.B.A. with honors in information systems.