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Creating deepfakes of your dead relatives out of nostalgia? It’s a thing, but it comes with a hefty price

By Alma Fabiani

Mar 17, 2021

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We’ve previously witnessed the appearance of AI-generated deepnudes, which, by the way, were later on revealed as being made using real images of sexual abuse—how awful. Around the same time, Kanye West thought it would be a great idea to buy his then-wife Kim Kardashian a talking hologram of her late father, Robert Kardashian. No need to ponder why they’re currently getting divorced. Even deepfake memes became popular!

All in all, it’s safe to say that deepfakes have comfortably infiltrated our lives, just like the rest of the, somewhat surprisingly, recent technologies that we take for granted in our daily life. Just because one trend is never enough for gen Zers—I should know, I am one myself—deepfakes now play a part in yet another trend of the moment: nostalgia.

From Y2k fashion to the viral retro music genre vaporwave, it’s obvious that we have a thing for reminiscence and sentimentality, even for eras we weren’t born in time for. This explains why we’re now all going berserk for MyHeritage’s new free feature called ‘deep nostalgia’, which allows users to upload pictures of their late relatives (or anyone else too, someone uploaded a photograph of the legendary Rosalind Franklin, ‘just because’) and have them come to life, eyes swivelling, faces tilting, and all that jazz.

The Black Mirror-esque technology has already taken TikTok by storm, with users sharing videos of them showing their parents AI-generated animations of their great great grandfather, grandmother, and other relatives, inevitably leading to emotional reactions and sometimes tears.

The creepy yet fascinating tool comes from MyHeritage, the Israeli online genealogy platform mostly known for its DNA test kits which provide customers with DNA matching and ethnicity estimates. But MyHeritage’s AI-powered viral deepfakery isn’t as complicated as it seems: the company is simply going straight for tugging on your heartstrings to grab data that can then be used to drive sign-ups for its other (paid) services. In other words, selling DNA tests is its main business, not ‘making it’ on TikTok, although that’s always a plus for any company.

It’s free to animate a photo using the deep nostalgia tech on MyHeritage’s website, but you don’t get to see the result until you hand over at least an email address and agree to its privacy policy and terms and conditions. Both of which have previously attracted a number of concerns over the years.

As TechCrunch explains, last year for example, “the Norwegian Consumer Council reported MyHeritage to the national consumer protection and data authorities after a legal assessment of the T&Cs found the contract it asks customers to sign to be ‘incomprehensible’.”

Back in 2018, MyHeritage also suffered a major data breach. The data from that breach was later found for sale on the dark web, among a wider cache of hacked account info pertaining to several other services.

That being said, if you’re able to set aside the ethics of encouraging people to drag their long-lost relatives into the dark hole that is MyHeritage’s cross-sell DNA testing, then yes, the deepfake tool is pretty impressive.

But MyHeritage is not the only company to be praised (or condemned) for the deep nostalgia trend. Another Israeli company, D-ID, helped power it. As a TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield alumni, D-ID started out building tech to digitally de-identify faces with an eye on protecting images and video from being identifiable by facial recognition algorithms. Oh, the irony!

The company released a demo video of the newer, photo-animating technology last year. The tech uses a driver video to animate the photo, mapping facial features from the photo onto that base driver to create a “live portrait.”

“The Live Portrait solution brings still photos to life. The photo is mapped and then animated by a driver video, causing the subject to move its head and facial features, mimicking the motions of the driver video,” D-ID said in a press release. “This technology can be implemented by historical organizations, museums, and educational programs to animate well-known figures.” So, not really your great great uncle.

Like all good things in life, MyHeritage’s deep nostalgia feature is not completely free—after the first few free nostalgia hits, users are asked to pay a monthly fee. I would be lying if I said I’m not going to be one of the many to have a fiddle with the tool, however, knowing that a paywall is bound to cut me short in my nostalgia mania is a welcomed thought.

Creating deepfakes of your dead relatives out of nostalgia? It’s a thing, but it comes with a hefty price


By Alma Fabiani

Mar 17, 2021

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Your DNA knows what you should be getting high on

By Shira Jeczmien

Mar 14, 2019

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Since the DNA testing craze began, we’ve seen the technology being used in some pretty unexpected places. From testing migrant children who have been separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border and are lost in a chaotic system, to Spotify claiming to enrich your listening experience by tapping into your heritage. In fact, you can now use your DNA home-testing kit results to find the perfect skincare, tailor your diet better, find out which sport your child should take up and even understand what skills you have to help you on ski slopes. But one market that has taken a liking to DNA matching is set to grow exponentially with its new personalised angle: the cannabis industry in the U.S.

Strain Genie is a platform that claims to match your DNA results with the type of weed that’s right for you. It does this by partnering with home-testing kits such as 23AndMe, MyHeritage, Ancestry and FamilyTreeDNA, or if you’re new to the field of DNA testing, you can simply request a Cannabis DNA test kit from the company directly. Whether you upload a .txt file from previous results or spit into a brand new test tube, it takes about 24 hours for Strain Genie to process the DNA information and generate a personalised 19-page cannabis report, just for you.

The ‘Cannabis Health Report’ sets out to identify genetic traits in users, such as an elevated risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or carrying a genotype that means you have a reduced CBD metabolism. In an example report Strain Genie makes available on its website, it shows that tips inside the report include a personalised recommendation for the ratio of THC and CBD according to each users’ genotype, which means users can begin to customise the products they consume accordingly. For example, a strand of weed that helps to stimulate memory cells will be recommended to those prone to Alzheimer’s.  

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Following a general introduction to THC, CBD and genes, the Strain Genie report takes its user on a more visual journey into what it has divided into categories of benefits each user can reach with different cannabis products, and which genres they might benefit from the most. From ‘chill’, ‘energise’, and ‘sleep’, to ‘create’ and ‘medicate’, there is a pathway for each and everyone one of us in the magical world of personalised marijuana. According to Strain Genie, that is.

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In a recent article on The Hustle, a media company operating inside your email in the form of newsletters, Zachary Crockett explains how Nicco Reggente, co-founder of Strain Genie, first entered the industry with WoahStock four years earlier in a bid to create the ‘Netflix of weed’. The CEO had co-created a platform “that collects data on thousands of marijuana strains, asks users to fill out a medical questionnaire, then enlists an algorithm to ‘intelligently’ recommend the right products for the right people.” Writes Crockett. With a PhD in neuroscience, Reggente told The Hustle that “I thought, maybe I could leverage DNA to gather information about my customers and help them make better purchasing decisions.” So it only makes sense that the next step for Reggente was to enter the DNA realm and elevate the type of personalisation he offers his customers that one step further.

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Having anxiety issues? Purple Voodoo is here to chill you out. Writer’s’ block? Fear no more, Lemon Wreck wants to get your creative juices flowing. And when you think about it, matching strands of cannabis to genotype characteristics makes sense; perhaps more sense than matching a new pair of skis to your DNA.

The legalisation and monetisation of the cannabis market is on a mega rise in the U.S. and other countries where it has been legalised, and is expected to reach $146.4 billion by end of 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. So it comes as no surprise that Reggente is on a mission to lead its personalisation aspect with Strain Genie and WoahStock. Sure there are some questions surrounding the validation of DNA testing and how accurate the results really are. But spending your money on making sure you are getting high on the right substance doesn’t seem like a bad place to start.

Your DNA knows what you should be getting high on


By Shira Jeczmien

Mar 14, 2019

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