In a spooky AI that “brings the dead back to life” by animating old photos

CHERIE Bergman’s eyes filled as she met her father’s gaze for the first time since his tragic death eight years ago.

With a tap on her phone, the Florida mum could see him blinking and smiling behind the screen like he was alive just yesterday.

MyHeritage uses deepfake technology to animate photos of relatives


MyHeritage uses deepfake technology to animate photos of relativesCredit: d-id

What really wowed Cherie, 25, was that this wasn’t a rerun of an old video. That was different.

She had uploaded a photo of her deceased parent to MyHeritage, an app that offers the ability to “raise” the dead.

Using artificial intelligence, it creates short videos that breathe life into the subjects of portraits that are years or even centuries old.

Faces in images are merged via “driver” animations to make the person appear to be nodding, smiling, and more.

Based in Israel, my inheritance admits that some people find the feature “creepy” while others call it “magical”.

The technology rose to fame after going viral last year and raises important questions about how far we’re going to let AI-altered videos go.


Cherie, a mom of five from Orlando, stumbled upon Deep Nostalgia while scrolling through TikTok last March.

People shared videos in which the technology brought to life photos of historical figures who lived before the video era, like Winston Churchill or Queen Victoria.

Cherie went viral after using technology to alter an image of her late father


Cherie went viral after using technology to alter an image of her late fatherCredit: Handout

Others uploaded their gaping reactions after using the technology to digitally revive dead relatives.

Cherie was inspired to try the tool herself using a photo of her father Rick, who died unexpectedly in 2013 at the age of 67.

What had once been a still image was suddenly alive, Rick blinked and took in his surroundings as if he were right next to her.

Cherie quickly showed her mother, six sisters, and anyone else she could find.

“We were stunned,” she told The Sun. “It was literally like he was staring straight at us. We were hysterical.”

The stay-at-home mum posted a video of her reaction to Rik’s “reawakening” on TikTok, which quickly went viral.

In the 15-second clip, which has amassed 5.5 million views, Cherie is visibly overwhelmed, one hand clasped over her mouth in shock.

A video of Rick’s animation then plays, along with text that reads, “I brought my dad back after eight years.”

The Florida mom said the experience'made my heart feel whole again'


The Florida mom said the experience ‘made my heart feel whole again’Credit: Handout

While Cherie’s distorted face could be mistaken for fear, she says her reaction was more one of joy.

“It wasn’t a sad feeling,” she explained. “It was an overwhelmingly happy feeling. It was like seeing him again.”

Another TikToker whose Deep Nostalgia experience went viral is 99-year-old American war veteran Jake Larson, who goes by the nickname “Papa Jake.”

After seeing the technology on social media, his granddaughter filmed his reaction to an animated photo of his late wife Lola.

The resulting video – which has racked up 39 million views on TikTok – shows him wiping away tears while being overcome with emotion.

“Holy smokers,” says Papa Jake, who fought in the 1944 D-Day landings, in the video. “She’s alive. I can’t believe it.”

Lola passed away 32 years ago and the image used in the video was taken for her high school graduation.

She was married to dad Jake for almost six decades.

“I had tears in my eyes when she smiled at me,” said Jake, who has 470,000 TikTok followers when he first saw the video.

“It was like someone came down from heaven and blessed me,” he told The Sun.

Jake's emotional reaction to an animated photo of his late wife Lola taking the internet by storm last year


Jake’s emotional reaction to an animated photo of his late wife Lola taking the internet by storm last year


MyHeritage’s eponymous app offers a range of family history services, including DNA testing and the ability to trace your family tree.

However, by far the most popular tool is Deep Nostalgia. It was built by the Tel Aviv company D-ID, which specializes in AI-powered videos.

Since launching Deep Nostalgia in February 2021, MyHeritage says it has animated more than 100 million photos.

At the height of its viral fame, it was the most downloaded app on Apple’s App Store, processing thousands of faces per hour.

When a customer uploads a photo, Deep Nostalgia zooms in and enhances the subject’s face.

Artificial intelligence merges the face with short, pre-recorded videos of a person moving their head and blinking their eyes.

It can even add bits. If your great-grandmother has her mouth shut in a picture, Deep Nostalgia can give her a huge grin.

The result is “a realistic representation of how a person might have moved and looked like if they were captured on video,” says MyHeritage.

Each clip is a so-called “deepfake,” an existing photo or video that has been manipulated using AI to create realistic, but entirely fake, events.

have deepfakes sparked a lot of controversy since it emerged in 2017 and as technology advances, things are likely to get more controversial.

Artificial intelligence explained

Here’s what you need to know

  • Artificial intelligence, also known as AI, is a type of computer software
  • Typically, a computer will do what you tell it to do
  • But artificial intelligence simulates the human mind and can make its own conclusions, conclusions or decisions
  • With a simple computer, you might be able to set an alarm to wake you up
  • But an AI system can scan your email, find out you have a meeting tomorrow, and then set an alarm and schedule a trip for you
  • AI technology is often “trained” — meaning it observes something (possibly even a human) and then learns about a task over time
  • For example, an AI system can be fed thousands of human face photos and then create human face photos all by itself
  • Some experts have expressed concern that humans will eventually lose control of super-intelligent AI
  • But the tech world is still divided on whether or not AI technology will kill us all in a Terminator-style apocalypse

They have already been used to create fake celebrity sex tapes and misleading videos by Politician say things they never said.

Deep Nostalgia is obviously a relatively benign version of the technology, and it’s hard to imagine how it could be misused.

However, questions have been raised about how far it should be allowed to advance.

Last year, MyHeritage said it deliberately didn’t include language in the feature “to prevent abuse, such as creating deepfake videos of live people.”

In March, it reversed that decision and launched the ability to have revived faces speak with a robotic voice that parrots user-supplied text.

Speaking to The Sun, Sarah Vanunu, MyHeritage’s head of public relations, admitted that the app lacks tools to prevent abuse.

The company instead relies on people choosing to use its services responsibly.

“You should use the feature for photos that belong to you, not photos that include living people without their permission,” Vanunu said.

“That’s part of the terms and conditions that people should read before doing anything else.”


According to experts, technologies like Deep Nostalgia raise important questions for the future.

Sam Gregory, a leading voice on deepfakes and human rights, says clear consent rules will be more important than ever as videos become harder to distinguish from real footage.

“The technology for AI-generated deepfakes is improving rapidly,” he told The Sun.

“Many companies are launching ways to either put words in the mouths of digital avatars or film real people saying something they never said.

“It’s important to establish consent rules and flag deepfakes so that we are not easily fooled when malicious uses occur.”

Of course, the potential benefits of the technology cannot be ignored. For people like Cherie, deepfakes have created a degree of closure following the death of a loved one.

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“When dad died, he was in Costa Rica,” she said. “He was all alone in a country far from home.

“Bringing this photo to life made our hearts whole again.”

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