If a picture is worth a thousand words, what is a movie worth? To help people connect with their old family photos, genealogy service MyHeritage now hosts a Deep Nostalgia AI tool that turns old portraits into short animations.
Unlike complicated deepfake software, Deep Nostalgia is extremely easy to use. Just sign up for a free MyHeritage account, upload a picture to Deep Nostalgia, and wait for the tool to spit out a lifelike animation. MyHeritage lets you run five photos through the Deep Nostalgia AI for free, although you have to sign up for a paid account if you want to animate more pictures.
— MyHeritage (@MyHeritage) March 1, 2021
MyHeritage licensed the Deep Nostalgia tool from D-ID, an AI company based in Israel. Like other deepfake software, Deep Nostalgia looks at the photos you upload and creates a “map” of facial features, like eyes, noses, mouths, and jawlines. It then links this map to a prerecorded video of someone tilting their head, blinking, and smiling. The end result is a moving portrait, although no two Deep Nostalgia portraits look the same, as the software uses a fairly large database of prerecorded videos to animate photos.
Deep Nostalgia also makes for an interesting educational tool, as it can bring historical figures to life in a way that static photographs can’t. The Tweet below shows a Deep Nostalgia animation of Frederick Douglass who, despite being one of the most famous and influential figures in US history, feels quite distant to children and adults today. A simple animation makes Douglass feel “real” in a way that could make people more interested in his story and the stories of other great figures.
Frederick Douglass, the mighty abolitionist, was the single most photographed person in the United States during the nineteenth century. Here’s how he might’ve looked in motion. Brace yourself and press play. pic.twitter.com/HOxDK7jGyh
— La Marr Jurelle Bruce (@Afromanticist) February 28, 2021
Of course, Deep Nostalgia isn’t just a tool for old family pictures and historical figures. You can use it to animate any image with a face, even if that face is from a video game or ancient statue. Tools like Deep Nostalgia could come become an essential part of game design and the motion picture industry for this reason—deepfakes feel very real, even when they’re applied to nonreal things. (Now seems like a good time to point out that the word “animation” comes from the Latin “anima,” which translates to soul, essence, or breath.)
Anyone can sign up for a free MyHeritage account and start using Deep Nostalgia. But the website only lets you upload five images for free. After that, you’ll need to pay $129 a year for a MyHeritage membership.