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Holograms of yesterday's scientists used to inspire tomorrow's female tech stars

3D cartoon of deceased scientists are being used to arouse a new GenX of Irish women to undertake a profession in the male orientated fields of science and technology.

The Inspiring Women project, which is still in an experimental period, performers to present the stories of introducing Irish women scientists to schoolchildren in an interactive Augmented Reality (AR) setting.

And then using a process called volumetric capture, the actors appear as three-dimensional artifacts which will be more captivating

 and motivating for a teenage audience than traditional instruction based on text books.

Pupils at Stepaside ETSS (Educate Together Secondary School) in Dublin clustered around iPhones and iPads to gaze as thespians impersonating  Ellen Hutchins, Ireland's first female botanist, and physician Dorothy Stopford Price recount  their stories.

Followed  on the mobile filmflam, the entertainers materialize as if bodily present in the classroom, and the students advanced for pictures and videos side by side with them. The personalisation appeared  to greatly captivatel the class.

"I think it's amazing," said 15-year-old Luanne van der Walt. "I think with the technology, it's brilliant. It looks so real, it's interesting and it captures your attention immediately.

"You want to know how far you can play with it, what else it can do. It's attention-grabbing, it's creative, and it's really impressive to see the technology, how it's actually done."

Thirteen-year-old Noa Nerin, who has an enthusiasm in biology, said that "lots of women aren't really into science, so seeing women actually achieving that really helps, because you think if they can do it, you can do it too".

The two higjlighted women were important archival figures in Irish science. In her cutting edge botany career, Ellen Hutchins (1785-1815) discovered  hundreds of species, while Dorothy Stopford Price (1890-1954), recounted by The Lancet as "formidable", was pivotal in the eradication of childhood tuberculosis in Ireland by establishing the BCG vaccine.

"At the time they were alive and they achieved those things, it was much harder," said Noa. "So knowing that also helps. Seeing them is really cool, it's like woah, people can actually achieve bringing people back from the past in that way."

The robotics used in the project is from an Irish start-up tech company called Volograms. Based in Dublin, it boasts of having the pioneer app in the globe that  allows users to initiate the volumetric holograms of themselves using just a smartphone.

The process is usually an expensive and time-consuming one, conducted at a professional green screen studio, with boatloads of cameras. However the Volograms app, called Volu, permits a user to carry out volumetric capture using a standard smartphone camera. Although the person is confiscated  from just one angle, the app uses artificial intelligence (AI) to add texture and 3D shape.

The aftermath  vologram can be knocked down  into videos, or superimposed on any backdrop, while users can experiment with size and filters.

Vologram's chief commercial officer Nicolas Moreno de Palma told Sky News that "these are 3D representations of real humans that are captured in the same way we currently capture video or pictures".

"So you record something on camera, and then you process it into a 3D object, that can live in any 3D world like video games, augmented reality, virtual reality, what people are calling these days the metaverse."

The Inspiring Women project is sponsored by research and innovation centre Learnovate. Its director Nessa McEniff affirmed that the "project breaks down boundaries of space and time by fusing history, drama and computer science".

"Future graduates need a similar fluency between disciplines connecting arts, humanities and social sciences subjects with science, technology, engineering and maths."

The gender disparity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is well-chronicled internationally. In Ireland, which parades  itself as one of the world's leading technology hubs, only 25% of the 120,000 people working in STEM fields is female, according to the Central Statistics Office. Women are gravely marginalised at senior or management level in these areas.

It's hoped resourcefulness  like Inspiring Women may go some way to contending  the obvious reluctance of young women to enrol in STEM fields.

 Luanne van der Walt asserts that: "It's not a problem that there are so many men. It's just a problem that there aren't many women."

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