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New AI Tool Takes Your Photo Hundreds Of Years In The Past

Ever wondered what you'd look like as a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt?

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Dr. Katie Spalding

Katie has a PhD in maths, specializing in the intersection of dynamical systems and number theory.

Freelance Writer

clockNov 29 2022, 16:45 UTC
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One subject made up as a mayan lord and a medieval knight.
One subject made up as a mayan lord and a medieval knight. Image: MyHeritage

It’s all very well thinking about what Henry VIII or Tutankhamun would look like if you could yank them into the modern day – but what about going the other way? What would it look like if you hopped into a time machine and met them on their own turf?

A new AI tool from online genealogy platform MyHeritage, in collaboration with AI image generation specialists Astria, promises to do just that. Well, not the actual time machine part – that would be much bigger news – but it does at least allow you to see what you might have looked like a few hundred years ago. 

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This new feature’s name? Fittingly, it’s the AI Time Machine. 

“Over the past 3 years we released many successful features that use the power of AI to bring historical photos to life,” said Gilad Japhet, Founder and CEO of MyHeritage, in a statement. “AI Time Machine™ is a new twist on this theme, inviting you to travel to the past and see yourself as you might have looked at the time of your ancestors.”

The technology that makes this possible is based on Stable Diffusion, a type of deep-learning neural network that was released only a few months ago. Like other popular AI image tools such as DALL-E or Midjourney, Stable Diffusion can both generate images using text prompts, or modify existing images based on text input.

It’s this second capability that MyHeritage is making use of for their AI Time Machine. Users can upload 10 to 25 photos of themselves in a variety of settings and poses, and the Time Machine will be able to recast them as characters in pretty much any period of history they want.

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So how good are the results? Well, lucky for us, MyHeritage had a test audience only too happy to try the new feature out before it hit the metaphorical shelves.

A collection of Elisabeth's portraits throughout time
A collection of Elisabeth's portraits throughout time. Image credit: MyHeritage


“The recurring question among our team was when it would be released so we could finally share our own mind-blowing images!” Japhet said.

A collection of Aviram's portraits throughout time periods
A collection of Aviram's portraits throughout time periods. Image credit: MyHeritage


It’s not the first time MyHeritage has made the headlines with its cutting-edge AI tools – even if those tools haven’t always been quite as universally beloved as the company has hoped. Deep Nostalgia, for example, was pretty impressive when it first started making our long-dead ancestors move about and chat last year, but it was also, you have to admit, a bit creepy.

By comparison, the AI Time Machine seems, well, pretty fun! And even better: for a limited introductory period, it’s free to use for up to 400 images per user. 

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“We are delighted to collaborate with MyHeritage to apply our technology to the field of family history,” said Alon Burg, Co-founder and CEO of Astria. “Generative AI is an exhilarating new frontier, and we’re very excited that this integration will create fun and meaningful experiences for millions of people worldwide.”


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