MyHeritage introduces AI tool for estimating when family photographs were taken
MyHeritage claims PhotoDater™ can date photographs with a 60% rate of accuracy
PhotoDater™ adds an automatic estimated year to MyHeritage users' photographs when they update them onto their family trees.
On its website, MyHeritage says: "PhotoDater™ uses a proprietary machine learning algorithm developed by MyHeritage to provide an estimate of the year when a photo was taken. The date estimation algorithm was trained on tens of thousands of curated, definitively dated historical photos to help the algorithm understand nuances such as clothing, hairstyles, facial hair, furniture, and other objects that are characteristic of a particular decade.
"The historical photos used to train the model came from open-source repositories such as the Library of Congress. Photos uploaded by MyHeritage users and stored on the company’s servers were not used to train the AI model.
"The algorithm provides date estimates for undated photos taken between 1860 and 1990, for which it is reasonably confident it can return results with high accuracy. Estimates are calculated only for photos that do not already have a date in the metadata, that include people, and that are actual photographs, not documents or gravestones."
It adds that PhotoDater™ correctly dated photographs within five years of when they were taken 59.2% of the time.
We decided to test out PhotoDater™ on some of our own photographs, and here's what we found.
In our August issue's Q&A section our photo dating expert Jayne Shrimpton dated this photograph from a reader to 1921, noting that the women's dresses "display the raised waistlines and billowing low-calf-length skirts that produced the so-called ‘barrel-line’, the silhouette that prevailed c1918–1921" and that the presence of civilian men suggests it was after the end of the First World War. But PhotoDater™ dates it to 1915.
This picture of two young men was featured in our April issue, where Jayne dated it to 1880-1885 based on the men's outfits. But PhotoDater™ estimates 1918.
Our verdict — PhotoDater™ is fun to play with, but won't replace other photo dating techniques just yet. If you want to try out dating photographs yourself, get started with our guide. Or if you'd like Jayne's help dating one of your own photographs, you can email it to our Q&A team.
Rosemary Collins is the features editor of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine