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Anyone else getting Harry Potter living painting vibes?
Published on March 3, 2021 By Tatiora In Life, the Universe and Everything

I imagine that I'm probably not the only one who has inherited boxes of old photographs of dearly departed family members throughout the years. Many of the photos I have in my possession depict people I never got a chance to meet - my great grandfathers and grandmothers, for instance - and what really connects me to the photos are the loving stories that my parents and grandparents would share about them.

A company that provides automatic AI-powered photo enhancements called MyHeritage has developed a new service that can animate people in old photos called Deep Nostalgia. These short videos look like they were recorded as the people prepped and posed for their photographs and are somewhat reminiscent of the Live Photos features (the ones that record several seconds of videos before and after the camera's shutter is pressed) that you see on iOS devices. 

I admit that the process freaks me out a bit, but it's honestly pretty cool. It's completely automated - users just upload a photograph through the MyHeritage website. The image is then sharpened and enhanced to improve the quality of the final animation and to make it easier for the deep learning algorithm to work. The orientation of the person in the photograph is analyzed completely, determining the direction of their head and eyes, then matching a modern recording of a face making movements to guide how the photo is animated.

These short videos manage to somehow preserve the aesthetics of the original shot in order to help sell the effect. The program does have some limitations, though - for example, photos with multiple subjects in them are still limited to animating just a single person. The animations are also limited to only the subject's head and neck. Still, even with limitations, the technology - and the eerily lifelike results that it produces - is incredibly impressive.

The animated photographs made me think of the living paintings in the Harry Potter universe. Anyone else?

Certainly maybe not as dramatic as that, but still - it's a beautiful little keepsake to remember loved ones. In order to use the Deep Nostalgia service, you'll need to sign up for a MyHeritage account. The company offers other services, such as family tree tracking, DNA analysis, historical records, and more.

Would you consider animating the portrait of a departed family member or friend? Share your thoughts with me!

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