MyHeritage and Deep Nostalgia: the app that animates the faces of the photos

Have you ever thought of wanting to animate your old photos, watching the subjects move and observe you? No? Well, someone has really imagined it and, recently, also realized it: Deep Nostalgia, a service of the famous site MyHeritage, is an app that allows you to animate the faces of the photos. A very interesting use of artificial intelligence, albeit a little disturbing: the animation made is very realistic, and people really seem to “come to life”.

To use the application you need to register for free and the trial period lasts 14 days. During the two weeks you can upload your own photos and animate their faces. Beware, though: the app can only animate one face at a time, so there will be a separate animation for each person. For the same photo it is therefore possible to generate several “videos” to be reproduced at different times.

MyHeritage and Deep Nostalgia: the app that animates old photos

Whether they are of the dead or of people still in flesh and blood, the photos will now be able to come to life thanks to Deep Nostalgia . The functionality is part of a broader technology developed by the D-ID company, which specializes in video reconstruction using deep learning. MyHeritage, used to reconstruct its family tree and delve into the history of its DNA, has started a collaboration with the Israeli company to use AI in photo animation. The future that brings the past back to life .

The gestures and movements generated are authentic and it is the user who chooses them from the models already created by MyHeritage. The application initially chooses a predefined sequence based on the orientation and tilt of the face, but it can be changed at any time. The results will obviously be better or worse depending on the starting position, whether or not it fits the chosen movement.

Animate a photo with Deep Nostalgia, the new service from MyHeritage. Source: MyHeritage
Animate a photo with Deep Nostalgia, the new service from MyHeritage. Source: MyHeritage

To create the database of gestures, real “actors” were used, mostly employees of the company, who lent their moves to build the datasets for the algorithm. After selecting the desired sequence, the technology generates a simulation of how the person would have moved, taking into account his features and facial features. Depending on the photo the algorithm may have to reconstruct parts of the face that are not fully visible , so the results vary a lot. The sharper and more complete the face, the better the movement recreated.

MyHeritage had already used Deep Nostalgia technology to animate Abraham Lincoln in a 1-minute video. In the video, the historic president of the United States discovered his family tree on the site and told it to viewers. In this case, MyHeritage has exploited the D-ID technology more extensively and also adding speech. The end result is incredible.

Deep Nostalgia… or deepfake?

One might think that Deep Nostalgia's technology is similar to that of deepfakes , the videos that in recent years have generated numerous criticisms and raised a lot of concern. Many sites and platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Gfycat, Discord and Pornhub, have imposed the blocking of this content and more controls, following numerous reports of videos so well made that they pass for real. Among the first to attract attention was Daisy Ridley's pornographic deepfake, followed by those of Gal Gadot, Emma Watson, Scarlet Johansson and other celebrities. The general public did not yet know this technology, so the videos caused a strong scandal and were initially believed to be real.

Deepfake and face overlay. Source: IEEE Spectrum
Deepfake and face overlay. Source: IEEE Spectrum

In the case of Deep Nostalgia, however, the technology works in a slightly different way: it does not superimpose one face on another, as happens in deepfake, but the movement is “applied” to a shot. Furthermore, MyHeritage does not make complete videos but rather GIFs, short animations without sound that follow the predefined model chosen by the user. Regarding privacy, the site does not send the creations to third-party servers and, if the registration is not completed, the uploaded photos are deleted from the MyHeritage servers.

After aging and rejuvenating faces and deepfake videos with FaceApp, it is Deep Nostalgia that takes center stage. While it may seem disturbing to many, there are just as many users who are having fun bringing old photos back to life, sharing them on social networks. Unfortunately, as with many things, there may be controversial results. What is certain, beyond all, is that artificial intelligence is making great strides.

The article MyHeritage and Deep Nostalgia: the app that animates the faces of the photos comes from Tech CuE | Close-up Engineering .