US researchers have developed a photo coloring tool that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to create eerily lifelike images of deceased historical figures.
The technique known as “time travel re-photography” simulates “time travel with a modern camera” to re-photograph famous subjects such as Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the USA.
It creates incredibly lifelike images by taking into account how the skin reacts to light that old cameras were too primitive to capture.
Portraits of other historical figures include Franz Kafka, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, and Mahatma Gandhi.
Scientists have used AI to make these historic photos appear as if they were taken using modern equipment – from left, Abraham Lincoln, Marie Curie, and Franz Kafka
It was developed by scientists from the University of Washington, the University of Berkley, and Google Research.
“Many historical people are captured only in old, faded black and white photos that have been distorted by the limitations of early cameras and the passage of time,” the newspaper said.
“Our comparisons with current state-of-the-art restoration filters show significant improvements and compelling results for a variety of important historical figures.”
The problem with old historical photos is not only that they have deteriorated over time, but that the base technology didn’t capture the light very well.
Ancient photos show “a faded, monochromatic world that is very different from what it was then,” because cameras had different sensitivities to different colors, the team said.
In the case of Abraham Lincoln – whose face is iconic and instantly recognizable – photos likely show that he has more wrinkles than he actually had.
Abraham Lincoln’s face is an icon – we recognize it immediately. But what did he really look like? Our understanding of its appearance is based on grainy black and white photos from well over a century ago
The film from Lincoln’s time was only sensitive to blue and UV light, which resulted in cheeks appearing dark and wrinkles being overly emphasized.
“Hence, the deep lines and sharp wrinkles we associate with Lincoln’s face are likely to be exaggerated by the photographic process of the time,” say the experts.
The old film filtered out “Skin Subsurface Scatter” (SSS), which has a smoothing effect on photos, but mainly occurs in the red channel.
SSS – describing the light that penetrates the surface of the subject – is required for the realistic reproduction of skin, marble, wax and fruit-like grapes.
Time travel rephotography effectively goes back in time to make up for the lack of SSS with the help of AI.
Researchers used the StyleGan2 neural network, a system developed by NVIDIA – an America-based AI computing company.
StyleGan2 was trained on modern digital portraits, which they referred to as “sibling images,” which each represented a historical figure in one of the old photos because of their fairly similar appearance.
The input and sibling images are displayed as inserts in the first and second columns, respectively. This is shown by the American inventor Thomas Edison in 1877
The researchers then “projected” the ancient black and white photos – the “inputs” – onto the modern imagery space using StyleGan2 to create the ultra-flat modern updates.
“We can achieve the interesting effect of turning the ‘modern’ sibling into the result for the ‘historical’ figures,” said Xuan Luo, one of the study’s authors, at the University of Washington.
The researchers admitted that the tool can also induce subtle perceptual changes in appearance, such as a subtle change in the exact shape of a facial feature.
However, the results provide “strikingly realistic and immediately recognizable images of historical figures”.
Touching up old images is usually a time-consuming process that requires special training and expensive software.
Earlier this year, the MyHeritage genealogy website made things easier for the public with a clever new tool called Deep Nostalgia.
Free deepfake technology takes every photo and animates the subject’s face – with strangely realistic and unsettling results.
AI TOOL SEEMS TO BRING THE DECEASED BACK TO LIFE
Examples from MyHeritage show how historical figures like Queen Victoria, Mark Twain and Florence Nightingale are brought to life. The technician uses modern input to animate photos of the deceased
Genealogy website MyHeritage unveiled a bizarre new online tool in early 2021 that can be used to animate old photos of deceased family members.
The free deepfake technology called Deep Nostalgia takes every photo and animates the subject’s face – with strangely realistic and unsettling results.
Examples from MyHeritage show how historical figures like Queen Victoria, Mark Twain and Florence Nightingale are brought to life.
Deep Nostalgia was developed by researchers at Israel-based company D-ID, which specializes in re-enacting videos using deep learning.
Anyone can use the tool on the Deep Nostalgia website by uploading an image or dragging and dropping it. However, you will need a MyHeritage account to see the results.
Read more: MyHeritage’s deepfake tool animates photos of dead relatives and historical figures