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Google's new AI makes your photos perfect before you even take them

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A new algorithm would be able to retouch photos like a professional photographer even before you take them.

The program, developed by Google and MIT, is based on a neural network and would be able to identify exactly how to make a photo look better by increasing contrast, toning down brightness, and anything else the photo might need in less than 20 milliseconds.

According to the paper, the speed would be so fast you can see the edited version in the viewfinder before you snap the picture.

Michael Gharbi, an MIT doctoral student and lead author of the paper, started working with Google last year to explore how neural networks might learn to emulate specific photographic styles.

Similar studies were conducted by German researchers in 2015, when Van Gogh and Picasso’s styles were reproduced by machine algorithms.

The idea behind the study, Gharbi said, is to make it easier to produce professional-grade images without the need of editing software.

Think of the algorithm as an automatic filter, but far more precise.

The efficiency of the algorithm comes from researchers training it with manually retouched images. The neural network has been fed with more than 5,000 professionally edited photos, which taught it what a “good” photo would look like.

Potentially, If you feed the neural network your edited photos, it would eventually learn to reproduce your own photographic style.

But the real success behind the research is that Gharbi and his team managed to make the software lightweight enough to run on mobile phones.

Instead of analysing the high-resolution photo itself, Gharbi’s algorithm processes a low-resolution version of  it and automatically decides which parts to retouch.

The algorithm estimates the changes needed, actuates them, then converts the image back to high resolution.

The auto-editing feature is still in a research phase, but potentially, Gharbi said, the algorithm could make the processing of HDR photos so fast that you no longer need to wait half a second to see your hi-def pic.

The researcher didn’t at this stage confirm whether this technology will appear in future versions of Android.

 

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