Still photos of Rizal, Aguinaldo, other dead people come to life via AI

March 4, 2021 - 10:02 AM
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Screenshots of moving photos of Jose Rizal from Ambeth Ocampo's Facebook (Ambeth Ocampo/Released)

Photos of national heroes were reimagined as living persons through an online genealogy platform.

Live versions of still photos of historical figures such as Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo surfaced on social media recently, which drew mixed reactions.

One Facebook user shared supposed-to-be still photos of Rizal, Aguinaldo, Apolinario Mabini and Marcelo del Pilar that seemed to come to life with their facial features exhibiting life-like motions.

Historian Ambeth Ocampo also joined in the fun and shared a moving image of Rizal.

Another version of an animated still photo of Rizal was shared on Reddit Philippines.

Animated photo of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, our National Hero from r/Philippines

In another Reddit post, a user posted a screenshot of a P5 note where Aguinaldo’s face was moving.

I saw somebody uploaded an animated rizal so I figured I’ll add another historical figure to the mix from r/Philippines

These eerie video clips that seemed to have come out of the Harry Potter franchise were made possible through a genealogy platform MyHeritage and its Deep Nostalgia feature.

Under the hashtag #DeepNostalgia, some Filipinos shared on Facebook live-action gifs or videos of their late grandparents and even ancestors.

Some were amazed while others expressed how creeped out they were by the moving images.

“That is great. Now it would be possible to see our heroes virtually come alive,” another said.

“Creepy if it’s a deceased loved one or someone you know personally,” one user said.

How does it work?

Based on its FAQs page, MyHeritage, which also has a mobile application, uses artificial intelligence technology licensed from D-ID, another company that specializes in deep learning.

“The remarkable technology for animating photos was licensed by MyHeritage from D-ID, a company specializing in video reenactment using deep learning. MyHeritage integrated this technology to animate the faces in historical photos and create high-quality, realistic video footage,” the website read.

It also explained that how its Deep Nostalgia feature enables the video-like movement.

“The Deep Nostalgia™ feature uses several drivers prepared by MyHeritage. Each driver is a video consisting of a fixed sequence of movements and gestures. Deep Nostalgia™ can very accurately apply the drivers to a face in your still photo, creating a short video that you can share with your friends and family. The driver guides the movements in the animation so you can see your ancestors smile, blink, and turn their heads. This really brings your photos to life!” it said.

To access this, users have to create a free account on the platform and then upload a photo. The website then enhances the image and applies AI technology to bring it to life.

The company also pointed out that while the results are nothing but simulations, the human gestures are “blueprint videos” of their employees, thus the authentic appearance.

“The gestures in the driver videos that are used to create the animation sequences are real human gestures and the actors in most of these blueprint videos are employees of MyHeritage. However, the end result is not authentic, but rather, a technological simulation of how the person in your photo would have moved and looked if they were captured on video,” it said.