‘A modern séance’: New tool by Israel’s MyHeritage brings old photos to life

‘Deep Nostalgia’ feature moves many on social media as they are able to animate long-dead relatives; others use it to see famous figures in motion

Israeli online genealogy and DNA testing company MyHeritage recently released a new feature taken straight from the world of Harry Potter. Using deep learning technology, the company’s app and website can take any photo and animate it, transforming still images of individuals into moving, expressive versions of them.

The company is advertising the new feature, which it calls “Deep Nostalgia,” as a way to bring long-gone relatives in old photos back to life — though it can be used for any photo.

The tool has taken social media by storm in recent days, with numerous users using it to animate old family pictures.

Many responded emotionally to being able to see deceased parents and grandparents “come to life” through the app.

“It’s a modern séance,” Israeli Ayala Zamir-Glick told Channel 12. “It’s a feeling you can bring a person to life.”

Others have used the tool to bring to life various historical or religious figures such as Jesus Christ, George Washington, Mozart and more.

And yet more creative uses have been found in turning famous pieces of art into moving pictures.

MyHeritage says the feature “gives family history a new perspective by producing a realistic depiction of how a person might have moved and looked if they had been captured on video.”

The tool uses pre-recorded template videos to animate the faces. “A preferred driver is automatically selected for each face based on its orientation, then applied seamlessly to the photo. The result is a short, high-quality video animation of an individual face that can smile, blink and move.”

“Seeing the faces of our beloved ancestors come to life in a video simulation allows us to imagine what they might have been like in reality and offers a new way to connect to our family history,” said Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage.

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