New AI ‘Deep Nostalgia’ brings old photos, including very old ones, to life

An AI-powered service called Deep Nostalgia that animates still photos has become the main character on Twitter this fine Sunday, as people try to create the creepiest fake “video” possible, apparently.

The Deep Nostalgia service, offered by online genealogy company MyHeritage, uses AI licensed from D-ID to create the effect that a still photo is moving. It’s kinda like the iOS Live Photos feature, which adds a few seconds of video to help smartphone photographers find the best shot.

But Deep Nostalgia can take photos from any camera and bring them to “life.” The program uses pre-recorded driver videos of facial movements and applies the one that works best for the still photo in question. Its intended purpose is to allow you to upload photos of deceased loved ones and see them in “action,” which seems like a lovely idea.

“It makes me so happy to see him smile again!” Try our new #DeepNostalgia #PhotoAnimation feature for yourself and prepare to be AMAZED!!!

— MyHeritage (@MyHeritage) February 28, 2021

Users have to sign up for a free account on MyHeritage and then upload a photo. From there the process is automated; the site enhances the image before animating it and creating a gif. The site’s FAQ says it does not provide the photos to any third parties, and on its main page a message reads “photos uploaded without completing signup are automatically deleted to protect your privacy.”

oh my! @MyHeritage has created such an extraordinary photo animation tool. Here is my grandmother! I have clients waiting for work today, how can I tear myself away from this and from #RootsTechConnect

— Nicole Lascelle (@pedigreetales) February 25, 2021

Naturally, the program has become something of a meme-generator on Twitter, with users trying to push the AI to its limit. An archaeologist used photos of ancient statues, and yes they included some with the blank eyes. Sorry in advance for the nightmare fuel (but hiiii there Alexander the Great):

Here’s Alexander the Great

— Flint Dibble (@FlintDibble) February 28, 2021

Deep Nostalgia can only handle single headshots and can only animate faces, so you’re not going to be able to reanimate mummies to make it look like they’re walking (hey I wondered, OK?). You can upload five photos for free to the MyHeritage website for Deep Nostalgia treatment, after that you have to register for a paid account.

I wonder if perhaps there are some photos best left un-animated? I’m wary of uploading photos to any site, and I think the usual privacy cautions still apply. But if you’re going to try Deep Nostalgia brace yourself for a surreal experience. The AI is scarily good.

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