You can use an AI Time Machine to see what you'd look like in different eras throughout history

A TikTok trend popularized MyHeritage's AI Time Machine, which generates realistic photos of what you would have looked like in past eras.
Written by Sabrina Ortiz, Editor
Photo renderings of a woman throughout different decades using AI Time Machine
Image: Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

In a recent TikTok trend that has garnered over 30 million views, people are sharing realistic AI-generated photos of what they would have looked like throughout different time periods in history. You can join in on the fun, too – for free. 

The photos are generated by an "AI Time Machine," created by genealogy company MyHeritage. As of Monday, the company generated 44 million output images, out of which three million were downloaded for sharing, according to MyHeritage

The website takes a number of photos you upload and by using text-to-image technology based on Stable Diffusion, constructs a model that is used to depict a person in a variety of poses and different lighting, according to the site. 

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It then uses the themes on the site to apply the proper conditions to the model to create a hyper-realistic photo of what someone looks like in a certain time period. 

The images can include 20th century staples such as a 1920s flapper, a 1930s Hollywood star, or a 1970s hippie. You can also go way back in time and choose to be depicted as a Viking, Roman, Mayan, world explorer, 16th century royalty, and more.

MyHeritage AI renderings of woman throughout different eras

Some MyHeritage AI renderings of myself in different eras and heritages: Saxon, Ancient Greek, Persian queen, French Royalty, 18th century bride, and Rembrandt portrait (top left to bottom right).

Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

To give it a try, all you have to do is visit the MyHeritage website and click on the "Try it now for free" button. If you get to this page and you see a button that says, "Try it now," that means the window for free renderings has closed and you will be required to pay a $12 fee to have your photos generated. However, there is a workaround. 

If you really want to try this AI model, but don't want to pay the fee, just visit the page at different times of the day and wait until the button reads, "Try it now for free" again. 

To render my own images, I first checked Tuesday night at around 4pm and the site was charging $12. I then tried again on Wednesday morning at 8am and the button read "free" again. 

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You will then be asked to submit 10 to 25 photos of yourself at different angles to generate the most accurate photo possible. Once the photos are submitted, it will take another 30 to 90 minutes to create the model and then you will receive an email once it is ready. 

When you get the email, you can select the themes you want it to generate, and it will take one to two minutes to render the results. Beware: some photos will leave you stunned, while others will leave much to be desired. 

I submitted 10 photos and did not upload photos of my profile as it asked, so that may be why I was met with lots of pictures that had me looking like a character from a horror movie. My recommendation – submit lots of photos. 

AI rendering French aristocratic lady

A rendering of what was supposed to be me as a french aristocratic lady, but it resembles Ghost Rider instead. 

Image: Sabrina Ortiz/ZDNET

People on social media are sharing their heartfelt reactions to the images, which struck a personal chord for many. 

Some people, such as social media influencer Tefi, were moved by the resemblance the generated photos had to actual family members. Other people felt validated in the feeling that they belong to a different era. 

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