in a story originally reported by The Times of IsraelA software engineer in New York has created and developed an AI that scans hundreds of thousands of photos to help identify victims and survivors of the Holocaust.
From number to names (N2N), is an artificially intelligent facial recognition platform that can scan photos from pre-war Europe and the Holocaust (eg 1914-1945) and match them with people alive today. Daniel Patt, a 40-year-old software engineer now working for Google, is working on the project in his spare time using his own resources, but is joined by a growing team of engineers, researchers and data scientists.
According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) website, there is no single list identifying the victims and survivors of the Holocaust, and that research to find the stories of individuals is a long process leading to minimal information. However, the museum offers several ways to provide information and documentation to the families of survivors and victims on site.
Patt’s inspiration for creating the AI came in 2016 during a visit to Warsaw’s POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, The Times of Israel said. Haunted by the ability to unknowingly walk past the faces of relatives, Patt developed N2N so he could help his family and others find photos of murdered loved ones.
The way N2N works is by scanning hundreds of thousands of photos made available by the USHMM, as well as photos of individual survivors and their descendants, according to The Times of Israel. However, the software is not perfect and only returns the 10 best potential matches it can find in the available database.
For individuals wishing to use the site, all they need to do is upload a photo from approximately the same time period. Patt says his team makes no software-based claims about the accuracy of the identification, leaving that judgment to the people who use the site. “We simply show results, with equality scores, and let individuals decide whether the results contain a positive identification,” Patt said in an interview with The Times of Israel.
In addition to the photos and videos currently available on the site, Patt told The Times of Israel that he is working to obtain an additional 700,000 photos from the pre-Holocaust and Holocaust eras.
“Looking forward, we want N2N to become a vehicle for Holocaust education, giving students the opportunity to contribute directly to the historic record,” Patt said in the interview. “Students can use the software to identify faces and artifacts in photo and video archives and potentially discover new connections between living Holocaust descendants and their ancestors.”
Patt has said the nonprofit has had informal contact with the USHMM, but he hopes in the future to partner with “museums, schools, research institutions and other organizations that share common goals in Holocaust education, awareness, and so on.”
“We developed the project over many months in the evenings and weekends,” Patt told The Times of Israel. “This effort is urgently needed as the last remaining survivors pass, and there are many connections that can still be made. We hope N2N can help build those connections while the survivors are still with us.”