UPDATED! Stupid Second Life Tricks: How to Make Your Avatar Come Alive from a Single Profile Picture!

Jo Yardley, the irrepressible Second Life 1920s Berlin landlady, really got my attention on Twitter when she posted the following video of her Second Life avatar, looking around and smiling at times, in a very realistic way that no facial animation override could yet match (check it out for yourself):

When I asked Jo how she accomplished this miracle, she referred me to the MyHeritage Deep Nostalgia website, which allows you to input a still photo, and generate a video from it, where the head, face, eyes, and mouth move!

Now, there is a catch: you do need to sign up for a 14-day free trial period on your credit card in order to use this tool. But once you have done that, you can submit as many pictures and photos as you like, play around with it a bit, and get comfortable with the video output (which can be saved to your hard drive as a MP4-format video file).

Here’ a sample starting picture, a profile of my main male avatar, Heath Homewood:

And here’s the resulting video:

Another starting picture:

And the resulting video:

Starting picture:

Resulting video:

Starting picture:

Resulting video:

So, as you can see, you can have a lot of fun with this! Please note that portraits which are facing straight-on into the camera tend to work the best; several I tested where the avatar was looking to one side or the other, or who had their head at a slight tilt, did not turn out as well, and a few turned out be Uncanny Valley material! So, your mileage may vary. But, if you’ve ever wondered how your avatar would look if she or he were alive, this is a cool way to find out.

It would appear that you can submit as many pictures of avatars as you wish (and download as many short videos as you wish) during your free trial period. Once you are done, simply cancel your free trial before your credit card is charged, and then to be doubly sure, delete your account completely (unless you actually want to use MyHeritage website to embark on the study of your family’s genealogy!).

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is your stupid Second Life trick of the day! You can red more about MyHeritage’s new tool in this report from TheNextWeb.

UPDATE March 2nd: The BBC has weighed in on the new MyHeritage AI tool:

Genealogy site MyHeritage has introduced a tool which uses deepfake technology to animate the faces in photographs of dead relatives. Called DeepNostalgia, the firm acknowledged that some people might find the feature “creepy” while others would consider it “magical”.

It said it did not include speech to avoid the creation of “deepfake people”. It comes as the UK government considers legislation on deepfake technology…

“This feature is intended for nostalgic use, that is, to bring beloved ancestors back to life,” it wrote in its FAQs about the new technology.

But it also acknowledged that “some people love the Deep Nostalgia feature and consider it magical, while others find it creepy and dislike it”.

“The results can be controversial, and it’s hard to stay indifferent to this technology.”

Here’s a promotional video for MyHeritage featuring a reanimated Abraham Lincoln, You can judge for yourself how successful this is (I personally don’t find it very convincing, something about the face looks off, somehow):

I think a service such as this would work better with social VR and virtual world avatars, where there is an expectation that what you see is not meant to be “real”.