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Bringing the past back to life

Online tools are using AI to make the wildest dreams come true, be it writing poetry like Milton or animating photographs of your ancestors.

Published: 21st March 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2021 04:28 PM   |  A+A-

Artificial intelligence is about making the artificial real. Two online services, totally different in nature, are delivering personal services that could be deemed useless for the greater good, but satisfies a deep need.

One is Google's party tool, Verse by Verse, that combines technology with culture and helps wannabe poets to write like Shakespeare and Emily Post.

The AI-powered tool enables you to create poetry that imitates the style of classic poets, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Walt Whitman, Amy Lowell, Lydia Huntley Sigourney, and Philip Freneau.

The other tool is more recent - the online genealogy service, Deep Nostalgia, turns photographs of your ancestors into video form, enabling you to see how your great grandfather actually looked and smiled 80 years ago. It could creep you out, but the company wants to recreate a lost magic and put you in touch with your ancestors through MyHeritage app or website. Sign up to get five free animations.

Verse by Verse's algorithm doesn't choose existing poems but offers original suggestions predicting how these poets would have written a poem with you. Google-trained AI systems provide suggestions in the style of each individual poet to act as your muse, while you compose a poem of your own.

After choosing the poets along with the structure of your poem, you can begin composing. Once you've written the first line of verse, Verse by Verse will start to suggest possible next verses. You get full control of your creative process. With the poetry tool, the past comes to life at the most unexpected times with AI-driven Deep Nostalgia.

The online geneology service will transform a historic photo of your family member into an animated image. Imagine seeing your long dead father blinking his eyes or your late grandmother smiling and shifting her head.

It can especially be emotionally gut-wrenching or exhilarating seeing these black and white portraits (colour works as well) from your album come alive before your eyes on your screen. The company’s primary focus is DNA testing and helping clients to discover their family history. 

The technology gets to work after you upload a photograph to the MyHeritage platform. AI uses several 'drivers'a beta video containing a specific sequence of movement and gestures to animate the image. "Deep Nostalgia can accurately apply the drivers to a face in your still photo, creating a short video that you can share with your friends and family," it says on the website.

"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!"

Since a high-resolution face is needed to apply the animation, and historical photos are mostly small and blurry, the MyHeritage Photo Enhancer improves them by increasing their resolution and sharpening the faces. Then the algorithm automatically decides which sequence to apply to a specific face based on its orientation. 

The site has many takers who have gone beyond family interests to play history buffs. Some of the picture suploaded are of Bhagat Singh, Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, and other historical figures 'brought back to life' via Deep Nostalgia. 

A fan tweeted, "Kind of surreal to take a photo of the singularly inspiring Bhagat Singh - a revolutionary voice in 1920s India, who was hung by the British in 1931, at the age of 24 - run it through the Heritage AI algorithm, and see him reanimated."

The tech was built by D-ID's proprietary AI-based facial reenactment technology. It will create high-quality, realistic video footage, using 'driver' videos to guide the movements, expressions, and speech of an actor or a person in a still photo. Pretty neat, no? The company's products include Live Portraits, Talking Heads and Lip Sync, which could make revolutionise the world of entertainment. 

Apart from the animation service, which is a clever marketing device, MyHeritage specialises in creating family trees and DNA tests to find new relatives. It has 13.1 billion historical records to choose from. Back to future is here. Make the most of it. 



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