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You Can Animate Your Long-Dead Ancestors With This (Slightly Creepy) AI Tool

A new type of ‘resurrection.’
IMAGE Encyclopædia Britannica. Animation by MyHeritage
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Do you remember those moving paintings in Harry Potter? Well, it looks like reality is catching up to fiction thanks to a new AI tool called Deep Nostalgia by MyHeritage. Deep Nostalgia, which takes its name from deep learning, the tech used to create it, successfully animates historical photos to make it seem as if long-dead family members are blinking, smiling, and moving.

Photo by Warner Bros.

MyHeritage already has a tool that colorizes historical photos, and its latest tool, Deep Nostalgia, takes it a step further. After uploading an old photo, whether of an ancestor or a historical figure, the platform then takes at least 10 seconds to sharpen and animate those photos as if the person in the photo is preparing for a shoot.

History buffs can use the tool to see historical figures in a new light, while others can upload old photos of their deceased parents or grandparents to “revive” their loved ones for a few moments.

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Here are a few Filipino historical figures we tested Deep Nostalgia on

Manuel Quezon

Jose Rizal

 

Gregoria De Jesus

 

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Andres Bonifacio

 

Lapu-Lapu

Here are some international figures and long-dead family members netizens animated:

Charles Dickens

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Queen Elizabeth I

Someone’s grandmother

Someone’s grandfather

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How does it work?

As marvelous as these animated photos are, MyHeritage emphasizes that these animations are not actually authentic—they are only simulations of how we imagine a person would have moved in preparation for a photo.

Deep Nostalgia uses deep learning algorithms to make these animations possible. To do this, it uses pre-recorded “driver” videos of regular (living) people smiling, blinking, and turning their heads. The best way to describe these driver videos would be as templates that are then automatically matched to old photos so that the people in these old photos mimic the movements of these driver videos.

Of course, some people might find these animations disconcerting and slightly creepy. The platform makes a point to not include a way to simulate speech so it doesn’t fall into the notorious “deep fake” category that simulates misleading videos based on living people. This is why, for better or worse, the site recommends using photos of deceased persons instead of living people.

Want to surprise your family with animated photos of loved ones who have passed away? Visit MyHeritage to sign up and upload old photos. You can upload up to five photos for free on Deep Nostalgia before you need a subscription.

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About The Author
Anri Ichimura
Section Editor, Esquire Philippines
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