Twitter | @MyHeritage

New App 'Deep Nostalgia' Is Bringing People's Old Family Pics To Life With AI

The old family photo album already isn't what it used to be. Those dusty volumes that sat on a shelf — only to be taken down at the most awkward or emotional times — have largely been scanned and digitized by families who want to preserve their precious memories, and be able to share them with ease as well.

The next step that few of us saw coming is here, however — adding an element of life to those old pics with the magic of artificial intelligence.

If you've ever wanted to see a smile break across the face of your great-grandmother when she was young, now you can.

And it's only because of a new app called Deep Nostalgia, developed by genealogy company MyHeritage. The app leans on AI photo enhancement technology to take a static, unmoving pic of a person's face and animate it, bringing it to life, basically giving you a gif of your ancestors.

It's a bit like the photos you see in the Harry Potter movies, or more realistically, like the Live Photos feature in iOS, where a few seconds of video a recorded so you can pick out the exact frame you want for a photo. It just works in reverse, taking a still photo and making it animated rather than taking a still from an animation.

As you'd expect, it's all completely automated.

To use Deep Nostalgia, you just have to sign up for an account on MyHeritage's website, and then you can start uploading pics to have Deep Nostalgia animate them, up to five of them for free before the site charges a subscription fee.

For those concerned about privacy — as we all should be — the site's FAQ says that your photos won't be shared with third parties, and any pics "uploaded without completing signup are automatically deleted to protect your privacy."

Many people have been sharing the results on social media and it's been pretty emotional for them.

Seeing long-gone relatives animated, looking around and blinking, has allowed a lot of people to connect with their families in new and profound ways.

"I have clients waiting for work today, how can I tear myself away from this," tweeted one person after seeing their grandmother's face animated by Deep Nostalgia.

It's been proving a fairly easy rabbit hole for people to fall into, so far.

CNN anchor Jake Tapper was among those drawn in by Deep Nostalgia. He shared pics of his grandparents that he'd run through the app, calling it "pretty cool."

However, Tapper's example also brought to light one of Deep Nostalgia's limitations: it can only animate one face at a time, so if your grandparents are both in one photo, you have to select each face once.

For another thing, Deep Nostalgia can only do faces.

So if you happen to have an action shot of your uncle throwing a football, for example, Deep Nostalgia won't be able to bring that entire shot back to life — at least, not yet.

It also doesn't do speech, which is entirely on purpose to prevent your family photos from being used for "deepfake" videos.

Another shortcoming is the tech itself, which definitely does some amazing things, but isn't perfect.

MyHeritage is well aware that the app doesn't always produce the best results.

"Some people love the Deep Nostalgia feature and consider it magical, while others find it creepy and dislike it," the company admitted. "Indeed, the results can be controversial and it’s hard to stay indifferent to this technology."

But even though Deep Nostalgia can only do faces, it *can* do pretty much any face.

Which means that the internet pretty obviously had to have some fun with the app, in the name of research and seeing what it's capable of. And certainly, some curious historians ran several famous faces through Deep Nostalgia to see what it could do.

Check out Frederick Douglass, for example.

Or Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie:

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like her eyes retained a piercing insightfulness and curiosity after a trip through the app; she looks perfectly prepared to analyze and pick apart a student's thesis, doesn't she?

Or Queen Lili'uokalani, Hawaii's last sovereign monarch.

It looks like she could be sitting in your kitchen drinking coffee and gossiping about the neighbors, not such a distant and tragic figure.

But of course, folks trying the app haven't stopped at pictures of people.

Faces are in many other places as well. Statues, for example — whether they have eyes or not. So, enjoy this animation of an eyeless Alexander the Great!

Paintings come to life with Deep Nostalgia as well.

Vermeer's captivating Girl with a Pearl Earring is one of the most famous portraits of all time and it's a pop culture icon, but you have to wonder if it would ever have been so popular if it had been animated originally.

But, somehow, *Mona Lisa* kept her sense of mystery.

She looks a bit quizzical, and even somewhat amused with the world, but she still does look like she's keeping a secret, doesn't she?

Somebody else threw the dollar in their pocket into Deep Nostalgia.

So we get to see an extra-wrinkly George Washington wondering what the heck is going on, too.

Anyway, as you can see, it's way too easy to get caught up in all this, which is a sure sign that this is some cool tech.

Have you tried Deep Nostalgia? Would you, with your own family pics? Let us know in the comments!

h/t: The Verge

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