MyHeritage is allowing people to get a new perspective on their family background. As seen in PEOPLE’s demo video of the tool above, the genealogy website recently introduced a new feature called Deep Nostalgia, which uses an artificial intelligence (AI) technique to animate the faces in still images.
“When you see a treasured family picture come to life with Deep Nostalgia, you’ll have a ‘wow moment,'” said Gilad Japhet, the founder and CEO of MyHeritage, in a tweet. “Seeing our cherished ancestors’ faces come to life in a video simulation allows us to imagine how they would have appeared in real life, and it gives us a profound new way of relating to our family history.”
According to a press release from MyHeritage, Deep Nostalgia was developed in collaboration with D-ID, a company that specialises in video reenactment by using an AI technique called deep learning. Using pre-recorded blueprint videos by employees at MyHeritage, or “drivers,” as they’re called, the company is able to direct the movements for each face in the uploaded photo.
The animation is based on the orientation of the face in the image and includes actual human movements including smiling, blinking, nodding, and shifting. The end result would be “a accurate depiction of how a person might have moved and appeared if they were recorded on camera,” according to the company.
So far, notable figures such as Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, and Charles Darwin have been used as examples by the company. Users can see different results depending on the video, perspective, and accessories on the face, according to MyHeritage’s website.
“The technology may need to simulate parts that do not exist in the original picture, such as teeth or ears, and the quality of the end result may vary,” according to the company. “When the person in your picture is wearing a hat or another accessory, the simulated movement works well sometimes and not so well other times.”
While many people have praised the feature as “magical,” MyHeritage admitted that some people have considered it “creepy and hate it,” and recommended that people only use DeepNostalgia on historical images.
“Indeed, the findings can be contentious, and it’s difficult to remain uninterested in this technology,” the firm said on their website. “This function is intended for nostalgic purposes, i.e., bringing long-dead relatives back to life. To avoid violence, such as the production of ‘deep fake’ videos of living people, our driver videos do not include speech.”
“Please only use this feature on your own historical photographs,” they added, “and not on photos of living people without their permission.” Those interested in trying out the new feature can animate several images on MyHeritage for free, regardless of the number of people in the picture.
Users with a complete MyHeritage subscription will be able to animate an unlimited number of images. Users that do not have a subscription would finally be required to sign up.
All images that have been animated with video can be easily shared on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp.