Innovators at RootsTech
By Dale E. Lee
- 3D Exhibits
- 3D Family Charts
- Computer Assisted Indexing
- Culture Comparisons
- DNA Matrices
- Family History in Historical Context
- Genealogy Research Assistants
- Interactive Family History Video Games
- Restoring old Photos
- Other Innovations
Wow! I guess Covid 19 wasn’t ALL bad. Over 1,000,000 people attended RootsTech worldwide because it was Virtual (due to the pandemic), and it was Free!
There were many Courses, Cultural events, Sessions, and Main events. But in addition to the areas of interest I personally had, one of the most interesting of the categories was the Innovators Portal. https://www.familysearch.org/rootstech/rtc2021/series/innovators
The Innovators Portal, like the Expo hall, allowed vendors to present their products and discuss how they could help others in the genealogical effort. But in addition, the Innovators Portal showcased leading-edge technology in the Family History arena.
You may want to check it out, especially the 3D Family Charts!
(Please note that I have not been paid by any of these companies to provide this review. The listing is in alphabetical order by subject.)
If you ever wanted to go to a museum but couldn’t for whatever reason, this may be the answer for you. “Treasured” is partnering with New York Times bestselling historian Andrew Carroll and with the National Endowment for the Humanities to create the “Museum of American War Letters.” This museum can be viewed in the convenience of your computer browser and displays a 3D view that is targeted to look like an actual brick-and-mortar museum.
3D Family Charts
This next one is exciting, something I’ve been waiting for for decades and which I considered doing myself if no one got around to doing it. (And maybe I will, given the right circumstances.)
The 2D Family Chart displays we currently use have multiple irritations to them. You can’t see more than a flat view of the family, which means that you won’t see divorces, remarriages, step-children, etc., etc., etc., unless you change the view. And when you do, you loose visibility to what you were working on before the view change. But what if you want to see everything at a simple glance?
Augean has come up with one solution which has a lot of pluses to it. While viewing the Family Chart, you can zoom in and out and also rotate, not only up and down, but right and left, as well as in and out. You can pretend you are a starfighter zooming around the Family Chart in all 3 dimensions. Now that is cool!
And guess what, you can do it right now; they have a demo you can try out in your very own browser: https://www.augean.com/Gallery.Babel_Chart.html
Why is that important? It’s easy to miss important relationships if you can’t see them in the same picture. I think Augeant has a great demo, but I’d like to see them further extend the view to in-law-related families in the same view as the blood-related families.
Clanview has come up with another interesting way to view your Family in 3D, using assisted reality as well as using a browser. The way they do assisted reality is that once the family tree has been loaded into a location on the web, you can click into the location from your cell phone, and it will show 2 images. You then take the cell phone and fit it into a viewer and then put it on your head and see the Family Tree in 3D while traversing from one family to another.
See their demo of the assisted reality at: https://www.clanview.com/rootstech-innovation-summit-clanview-vr/
Also their demo of the same using a Computer Browser and a mouse as a pointer: https://www.clanview.com/explore/clanmodelview.html?modelid=da2848cd-32e7-4a26-b436-655bbc0da711
Teach the kids their heritage while virtually walking them through it, and in the case of assisted reality, while you are physically walking around!
Computer Assisted Indexing
Everyone that has been involved in Indexing old records (reading the old handwritten text and translating it into readable computer text) knows how difficult old handwriting can be to read. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the computer do it for you?
Well, we’re getting there. FamilySearch is using Machine learning and artificial intelligence to help reading hand-written documents. It’s like OCR (Optical Character Recognition on steroids).
I’m sure there will always be a need for indexers to check the result of the AI scan because there are so many different people using so many different styles of handwriting, but boy, could this make a difference in the speed of digital to text translations!
One of the most important things a researcher can do is understand the context in which an ancestor is placed. I heard a story of a Sister in America that was told by her Sister in Europe that she had been able to trace their genealogy back several generations more than the one in America thought possible. The one from America asked how that could be possible since the records had been destroyed and were non-existent. The Sister from Europe replied that she knew about the Birth, Death, and Marriage record destruction but had been able to get around that by way of land and title records.
The point is that understanding the context of the time and the culture is very important to be able to get around roadblocks.
TOTA (Traditions of the Ancestors has come up with an interesting tool. It compares different cultures side by side to each other.
Why would you use it? People tend to migrate over time, and not everyone is in a biological family relationship. If you were born in Russia, but adopted into an American family, wouldn’t it be a good idea to learn about your native Russian culture? And wouldn’t it be nice to provide some context to show how American culture compares with Russian?
This is what TOTA is attempting to provide.
Sometimes there are surprises in Family Trees. The company Progeny has created a tool that attempts to correlate the Family Tree, as documentation knows it, with the Family Tree, as the DNA knows it. They provide the percentage of DNA related from one person to others and attempt to find discrepancies.
If a discrepancy is found, it is flagged.
Maybe who you thought you were isn’t necessarily who you biologically are. If not, you may want to dig deeper and find out who you really are.
Family History in Historical Context
As explained above, it is important to understand the context your ancestors were placed in to understand what they would do and where they would go, especially when dealing with migrations of people.
AncestoriesXR has created a platform that allows you to see documentaries about the conditions of different major cities of America starting in the mid-19th Century, in 3D. You can scan the movie with your mouse pointer and rotate 360 degrees while the narrative of the story is playing. This gives you a good view of the buildings and environment of the time.
Understanding the environment may remind you to start looking for information about your ancestor in a different direction than you would have without knowing what they had to deal with.
And it may even help your kids relate to their ancestors better. Hey, if they knew what their Grandparents had to go through, they might be a little less demanding.
Genealogy Research Assistants
Goldie May has come up with an interesting way to assist you in your research activities in FamilySearch. They have created a browser add-on that can be used to capture and manipulate information in FamilySearch. This can assist you in doing searches, documentation, and logging the information found.
When you open FamilySearch and point to an individual, you can also open Goldie May and start copying and pasting relevant information into it. If you have automatic logging turned on, every page you go to in FamilySearch will be logged. Source citations can even be copied for you, so you don’t need to copy them yourself.
Goldie May helps snip portions of images, so you can capture the piece of an image that contains the information you want on your ancestor. Goldie May also has multiple capabilities that can be utilized while doing FamilySearch searches.
You can even collaborate with others on your targeted research project.
Interactive Family History Video Games
Now here’s one that will probably be a hit with the kids, an interactive video game called Meet My Ancestors by JM Design, using your very own Family Tree.
Get into the Game, then Signon to FamilySearch, create the Avatar you want, and start interacting with the game while finding out about your ancestors.
It looks like an early version of the game, but once it is fully functioning, it should be fun to play.
What better way to learn Family History than to play it?
It’s not the only Family History online interactive game out there, and hopefully, they’ll be many more to come!
Restoring old Photos
There are multiple companies involved in restoring and repairing old photos. They use artificial intelligence to look at the surrounding pieces of a picture to make inferences on the parts that would have been there before it was damaged, such as when an old picture has a crease running through it because it was folded. They also help infer colors which used to be in the picture, before it became faded and the colors changed over time. I have pictures that have turned pink over time, and it’s not because I’m trying to look at the pictures through rose colored-glasses. They can even colorize old black and white pictures!
You can see Adobe’s solution at:
And MyHeritage has a similar capability:
Here are some additional innovative ideas.
BYU (Brigham Young University) has an AI (Artificial Intelligence) tool they call Reverse Indexing. In a nutshell, the tool gives a set of pictures that the AI engine thinks are the same, and a human is given the task to identify those that don’t belong. The machine then uses the information to enhance its ability to recognize a particular word or name. This technology is projected to help those that audit the results of Indexers to speed up the time it takes to audit their indexed data.
Kawai, the piano makers, have come up with a game that translates your Name or any other string of characters into sounds. So, in essence, you can “play” your name like music. See if your name sounds good or not.
And lastly connections-experiment.com has come up with a tool that helps you find ways to connect with your relatives, past and present.
Family History is starting to become more innovative and entertaining these days. Join in on the fun!
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