The first “deepfake” tools appeared in 2018, leveraging deep learning to create lifelike but completely artificial copies of someone’s face. Naturally, people used it to make fake celebrity porn, but there’s a more socially acceptable use now. Genealogy firm MyHeritage has launched an online tool called Deep Nostalgia that can animate your old family photos — or really, any photo with a face. It’s both fascinating and deeply unsettling at times.
MyHeritage didn’t develop this tool itself. It partnered with an Israeli company called D-ID, which specializes in generating AI fices. With traditional deepfake content, you want the artificial face to be able to mimic anything the “real” face does. That means you need a lot of source material like high-resolution photographs. Deep Nostalgia is less flexible. You provide it with a photo, and it will create a short video, not unlike an iPhone Live Photo.
— MyHeritage (@MyHeritage) February 28, 2021
Deep Nostalgia works with any photo that features a clear image of a face (and nothing else, ideally). Most of the demos feature old family photos, which are very much in the MyHeritage wheelhouse. However, Deep Nostalgia is available for free after signing up, and that’s encouraged the internet to try their hand at all sorts of images including statues, paintings, and more. Some of it is pretty creepy.
Processing and rendering your photos takes a few minutes, but it’s possible this is supposed to be faster — the MyHeritage site is being hit pretty hard right now. Just make sure your image is a headshot of a single person, and you should be all set. The animations you get from the service are eerie. MyHeritage says it used motion capture from its own employees to make the animations more lifelike. You can see facial features shifting unnaturally at some angles, but it’s overall very believable.
Here’s Alexander the Great pic.twitter.com/djbnzszFM0
— Flint Dibble 🍖🏺📖 (@FlintDibble) February 28, 2021
MyHeritage is offering Deep Nostalgia for free, but its goal is to sign users up for premium services. According to the company, any photos uploaded without completing the mandatory account creation will be deleted in the interest of privacy. There are share buttons on the Deep Nostalgia site, which have no doubt helped the company go viral in recent days. You can also download the output from Deep Nostalgia, which is a standard MP4 file, and ignore all the upsells.