Remember all those movies and TV series in which a FBI agent turned a completely blurred photo into a focused image by clicking one button? Remember how you sneered? Well, soon you will not be able to laugh at it anymore. This app lets you deblur any heavily blurred image just like that.
Even while imperfect, the results are truly astonishing.
Created by Vladimir Yuzhikov—a software engineer specialized in image and signal processing—the SmartDeblur app is truly impressive. According to him, the "restoration of distorted images is one of the most interesting and important problems of image processing—from the theoretical, as well as from the practical point of view." Even while the math for doing this started about 70 years ago, he says, it's only now that we are seeing the results of it.
Yuzhikov worked on two common cases: blurring due to incorrect focus and blurring due to movement. "Each of you knows very well," he points out, they "are very difficult to repair." In fact, the examples used as samples by Yuzhikov are impossible to fix using current commercial technology.
He started his work with his own picture of Venice. He applied a synthetic blurring filter on it and then he applied his software to it. It worked, as you can see it above. And while it didn't revert to its original state, the results were impressive.
Many people think that blurring is an irreversible operation and the information in this case is lost for good, because each pixel turns into a spot, everything mixes up, and in case of a big blur radius we will get a flat color all over the image. But it is not quite true—all the information just becomes redistributed in accordance with some rules and can be definitely restored with certain assumptions.
Of course, artificially blurred images are not the real problem. Adobe demonstrated something similar in the past but, but that used accelerometer information on motion-blurred picture.
A real world solution
Yuzhikov did better. The real problem for all of us is real world, not synthetic fuzzy images or images without accelerator tracking data. The real world problem is blurry images caused by poor lens focusing or unwanted motion blur in any camera.
His results are not as perfect, but equally impressive. Take a look at his examples, taken with a Canon 500D:
Example of blurred photo because of poor focus:
Yuzhikov's app result:
Example of blurred photo because of motion:
Yuzhikov's app result:
Example of out of focus photo of text (left) and fixed image (right)
While the images have artifacts, it's quite amazing to see the level of detail that Yuzhikov's program can obtain from these blurred images, like window panes on windows that were just muddy spots. The effect on text is awesome. Clearly, now you will not be able to laugh every time they focus a license plate in CSI. I'm sure that a perfect version that gets rid of artifacts is just a few years away.
I'm sure that we will soon see this and much better focusing filters in future software. And with the computational power of smartphones increasing by the day—especially their graphic processing units, which are ideal for the math required in this—it will not be surprised to see this feature built in the camera software of future iOS, Android and Windows phones.
You can click here to download and try it (sadly, it's Windows-only now). [Yuzhikov—Thanks Ángel Jiménez!]