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You can animate your memories using Deep Nostalgia, here's how the MyHeritage app does it

At its heart, the MyHeritage app is a DNA or ancestry service, the kind that have been popular lately. These apps allow you to trace your entire family history by cross-referencing a global information board.

March 10, 2021 / 07:39 PM IST
Deep Nostalgia can animate old family photos using modern technology.

Deep Nostalgia can animate old family photos using modern technology.


If you have caught on to the recent viral trend of animating old family photos, then you may have heard about MyHeritage. The app has been in the news lately and claims it can animate old family photos using modern technology.

The technology is called Deep Nostalgia, a derivative from the same branch of code that created the infamous Deepfake, which is popular for all the wrong reasons.

Before you get confused hearing names that sound like song titles from an edgy nu-metal band, why don't we break it down and see what the big deal is.

MyHeritage or bring your family back from the dead (sort of) 

Before you think I am being dramatic, firstly, I am. Secondly, that title does have a point. The app uses technology to animate your old black and white photos to give them life. Okay, fine that analogy was terrible. Happy?

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Besides the awful analogy, the way the MyHeritage app works is that it uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to add little animations to your photos. These can be as small as a blink or a smile.

The actual experience of using the app is a little creepy because you are not used to seeing your long dead ancestors move, but its not dramatic enough to be unnerving. There is something admittedly cool about seeing your old photos with a fresh pair of eyes.

At its heart, the MyHeritage app is a DNA or ancestry service, the kind that have been popular lately. These apps allow you to trace your entire family history by cross-referencing a global information board.

In other words, you willingly give them your information and they do their best to find every person you might be related too.

Whether you want to give up your information is up to you, but take my advice and err on the safe side.

The free version of the app limits you to a set number of animations that you can apply to a photo. You can even completely remove a person from a group photo or view them in a separate portrait.

To do all of this, you need to sign up for one of the subscription tiers, going as high as $189 a year for the complete package, that is close to about Rs 14,000 in our currency.

The complete package gives you access to an unlimited family tree with no limits on the number of family members you can add and access to about 13.1 billion historical records that will be used to cross check your family tree.

The company also sells a DNA kit which expands your searches even more after you give them a sample of your DNA. Yes, you read that right.

Fine. So what is Deep Nostalgia then? 

Here's where it gets interesting. The way the technology works is it taps into a large deep learning (AI that can mimic brain functions) thinktank that cross reference a wide database of photos and videos to create small snippets of life like animation on your old photos. These can be something as small as a nod or a blink for example.

It isn't perfect, as I said some of these animations are a little creepy and unnatural but they do make you at least think about the photos you are so used to seeing be still.

Besides, these animations are bound to get better as the technology evolves and here's the cool part, Deep Learning AI can actually learn and evolve without the need for human supervision.

As its database grows, its guesses (in a crude way) at what might be happening during the time of taking the photo, get better.

As a side note, don't take these animations too seriously, even if they do look very lifelike. You have probably heard about celebrity faces being morphed on to bodies engaged in...let's just say unscrupulous activities.

So take these results with a grain of salt.
Rohith Bhaskar
first published: Mar 10, 2021 03:31 pm

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