‘Deep Nostalgia’ AI tech animates old photos and brings them to life

The online genealogy company MyHeritage has launched a new AI-powered service, Deep Nostalgia. This new service animates family photos (or other photos, as we’ll see) to allow users to ‘experience your family history like never before.’

Deep Nostalgia uses AI licensed from D-ID to turn still images into animated photos like the Live Photos feature in iOS portraits in the ‘Harry Potter’ films. Deep Nostalgia relies upon videos of facial animations, which the AI then applies to a still image. For example, an old black and white portrait of a man looking off-camera comes to life, with the subject moving his head, blinking and smiling at the camera.

MyHeritage prepared several drivers for Deep Nostalgia, which are then applied to a face in a still photo. You can animate all the faces in a photo, such as in a family portrait, although a separate animation must be created for each face. The technology automatically selects an animation sequence for a face, but users can select a different sequence as well. The animation sequences are based on genuine human gestures. Different MyHeritage employees are the foundation for many of the animation sequences.

To try Deep Nostalgia for yourself, you must sign up for a free MyHeritage account. Once you sign up, you can begin uploading images, which are animated and turned into a GIF. If you don’t do the full signup process, MyHeritage states that any images you upload will be deleted automatically to protect the user’s privacy. If you are uploading small or blurry images, MyHeritage’s Photo Enhancer will enhance your photos before the animation is applied, as Deep Heritage requires a high-resolution face.

It’s a neat idea to be able to bring old photos back to life. For many, their only connection to family members featured in old photographs is the image itself. They may never have seen them in person. In many cases, including those shared by different users on Twitter, Deep Nostalgia produces pretty impressive results.

As pointed out by The Verge, not everyone is using the service to add life-like qualities to antiquated family photos. Twitter user Flint Dibble opted instead to upload photos of statues from the Acropolis Museum in Athens. If you’ve ever wanted to see a statue of Alexander the Great move and blink, now you can. As Kim Lyons of The Verge asks, ‘I wonder if perhaps there are some photos best left un-animated?’

Jokes aside, Deep Nostalgia is a fascinating technology that can create impressive results. Photographs are the lasting connection we collectively have to our past. When our photos are of lost loved ones, the images take on a much deeper meaning. For some, seeing someone blink and smile again may feel morbid or odd, but it may be a special experience for others.

As MyHeritage writes, ‘Some people love the Deep Nostalgia feature and consider it magical, while others find it creepy and dislike it. Indeed, the results can be controversial, and it’s hard to stay indifferent to this technology.’ To try it for yourself, head over to MyHeritage.