What the Tech? How to Animate Old Photos Using “Deep Nostalgia”

You probably have a few family photos of great grandparents or other relatives whom you’ve never met. A new website and software tool can help old family photos come alive.

My Heritage, a DNA genealogy platform similar to 23andMe and Ancestry.com last week released “Deep Nostalgia” that makes it possible for users to get a different picture of relatives they never met in real life.

“It uses technology from a company called D-ID,” says Rafi Mendelsohn of My Heritage from his office in Israel. “It incorporates a number of different technologies that includes photo enhancement, photo colorization, and then also this technology uses artificial intelligence to make it move, appear to be smiling, from side-to-side.

It really brings it to life,” he said.

Users simply upload or drag and drop an image from their computer or film roll on their smartphone with the My Heritage app. The Deep Nostalgia tool enhances the photo, which is pretty good if it stopped there.

Once the enhancement is complete, which takes about 10-seconds, the tool scans each face in the photograph. Then the face is animated. If the photo is of just one person the process is even faster. If there are several people in the photo Deep Nostalgia will ask which face or person you’d like to see animated.

“You’re able to see your loved ones and ancestors, grandparents, maybe people you haven’t met before, and you can see possibly what they would have looked like,” Mendelsohn said.

I tried the tool on several old family photos on my computer. The first was of my grandmother on my mother’s side. I never knew her. She actually passed away when my mom was a small girl.

The photo was grainy in its best days and on my computer her face was blurry. When I used the tool, the photo was enhanced and I could get a better sense of what my grandmother looked like. Deep Nostalgia then animated her face so she tilted her head and blinked.

The result was just okay but that was due to the quality of the photograph.

Using another photo of my mother’s dad who also passed away when she was a little girl, Deep Nostalgia did not recognize his face in the picture and did not render an animation.

I then tried a photo of my dad when he was about 9 years ago. The photograph was of better quality and the results from Deep Nostalgia were very impressive as I saw him move his head around the frame and smile. It was like looking at a modern-day gif of my boyhood father.

On social media, thousands of people shared their own Deep Nostalgia images. On Twitter Paul Chiddicks (@chiddickstree) had uploaded a photograph of his deceased father when he was a striking high school athlete. “This actually moved me to tears,” Chiddicks tweeted. “I have never seen a moving image of my Dad, he sadly died when I was 3, incredible and emotional thank you.”

Other users posted their own photos turned animations along with similar stories. Others shared animated photos of historical figures.

Paid subscribers to My Heritage can upload and animate unlimited photos but even if you’re not a member you can animate several images before having to pay a fee. You will need to submit an email address or sign-in to My Heritage by connecting to your Facebook account.

It’s pretty impressive.

“In four days we’ve had more than 4 million animations using deep nostalgia,” said Mendelsohn. “And the response that we’ve had has been incredible from people I think who either didn’t know their relatives or from people who remember them but from many years ago.

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