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John is well known in the Irish technology and startup community. A professor at NUI Galway, he was one of the founders of boards.ie, and Galway’s Portershed technology co-working space. He’s a former winner of the IIA Net Visionary Award.
In the past year, he’s been working on a personal project called Old Ireland in Colour. Inspired by researching his own genealogy, he began colourising some old family photographs by hand, which turned out to be a laborious and unsatisfactory process. Then he started using a Deep Learning tool called Deoldify to automate the process. The results were so encouraging that he soon turned his attention to archival sources like Dúchas and the National Library of Ireland, and Old Ireland in Colour was born.
“A lot of the photographs that were taken back then were extremely high quality, you know they would be very high resolution, so I think the addition of colour really does bring them to life”
The collection also includes some stereographs, which were popular around the end of the 19th century. These were 3D photographs, taken with a special camera designed to produce a pair of images as they would be seen by the left and right eyes of a viewer. A device called a stereoscope was used to view the images. John has colourised a number of these images, which are animated to show the 3D parallax effect.
The response to Old Ireland in Colour has been appreciative, especially for many of the photographs featuring historical figures, such as the one below with Michael Collins. But there has also been a strong response to many of the old images featuring scenes of poverty and deprivation.