Memories in motion

News

CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WCIA) — A lot of you probably have a photo album filled with old pictures of family members. You may have never met some of them. But what if you could see them move?

That’s what one website is offering with a service called, “Deep Nostalgia.” MyHeritage.com specializes in family history. Deep Nostalgia is a program that allows users to animate old photos.

We talked with user, Alex Villanueva. He uploaded his grandfather’s photo after hearing about the service at a museum. His first reaction?

“At first you’re like ah, well this is cheesy. Like obviously this is fake,” he says.

But he gave it a few more moments.

“When you sit there and you look at it and it kind of keeps playing over and over, you’re like, this is pretty cool. You know, just to have a chance to see and experience something that that happened in the past and kind of live in the moment with it … It’s kind of heartwarming in a way,” says Villanueva.

U of I professor, David Forsyth, says this sort of technology has improved a lot over the last decade — think Snapchat, TikTok and Instagram filters. Now, he says companies are experimenting.

“We don’t necessarily know which of those things people really want — and which of those things are just eye candy or pointless,” says Forsyth.

The website partnered with an Israeli startup to use deep fake technology which turns the pictures you upload into videos.

That’s caused some concern.

“Deep fakes” are videos manipulated to make someone do or say something they haven’t actually said or done. MyHeritage says it avoids the “deep fake” issue because its service doesn’t include a speech feature. A company spokesperson says Deep Nostalgia has been used more than 60 million times — and that the most popular use for the program is what they intended it for: bringing back loved ones.

Forsyth says at this point, he doesn’t see anything to be worried about.

“It’s tough for me to see any serious mischief resulting, although you could probably come up with stories of things that could go wrong,” he says.

But he says the technology isn’t perfect in that it can’t capture your loved one’s nuances.

“You might have a little twitch around your mouth when you’re nervous, or people who wrinkle their nose a lot of squish up their eyes … or I have a tendency to make very broad smiles when I don’t know what’s going on. None of that is going to be reflected, it’s all going to be the same sorts of movements,” says Forsyth.

Perfect or not — Villanueva says it’s worth trying because it offers a glimpse into loved ones who we may never know otherwise.

“There’s something cool about it because you know — they’re lost to time but they’re not lost in our memory,” he says.

We asked MyHeritage what the future holds for this technology. Part of their response reads:

“We will continue to use technology to make it easier for people to make discoveries about their family history. More things you can do on MyHeritage other than Deep Nostalgia, is to build your family tree, upload your family photographs and improve them, and explore your family history. You can treasure it for the future generations of your family, so your memories are preserved and are never lost.”

If you’re interested in learning more, or uploading your own photos, you can visit MyHeritage by clicking here.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.