Photographers already face an uphill battle in trying to preventing people from using their digital photos without permission. But Nvidia could make protecting photos online much harder with a new advancement in artificial intelligence that can automatically remove artifacts from a photograph, including text and watermarks, no matter how obtrusive they may be.
In previous advancements in automated image editing and manipulation, an AI powered by a deep learning neural network is trained on thousands of before and after example photos so that it knows what the desired output should look like. But this time, researchers at Nvidia, MIT, and Aalto University in Finland, managed to train an AI to remove noise, grain, and other visual artifacts by studying two different versions of a photo that both feature the visual defects. Fifty-thousand samples later, the AI can clean up photos better than a professional photo restorer.
Practical applications for the AI include cleaning up long exposure photos of the night sky taken by telescopes, as cameras used for astrophotography often generate noise that can be mistaken for stars. The AI can also be beneficial for medical applications like magnetic resonance imaging that requires considerable post-processing to remove noise from images that are generated, so that doctors have a clear image of what’s going in someone’s body. Nvidia’s AI can cut that processing time down drastically, which in turn reduces the time needed for a diagnosis of a serious condition.
But the AI’s ability to quickly and easily remove text from photos will certainly pose a problem if the tool is ever released to the masses. Its current functional limitation of requiring two different versions of a watermarked photo in order to erase the text will undoubtedly only be a temporary setback as AI continues to improve at an expedited pace. But on the plus side, if you’re into creating your own memes, you’ll no longer have to scour Google looking for an original version of a photo.