Google uses artificial intelligence to develop smart image compression

google ai image compression study screen shot 2016 08 25 at 9 36 40 am
Google
Artificial intelligence could just be the answer to discovering the best method for compressing images, at least according to a recent Google study.

Image compression is an essential piece of the puzzle for mediums that create large files, including 4K video and 360. Functions from live-streaming to web download times are largely dependent on file sizes, but shrinking files involves a balance between quality and space.

Google is teaching computers to recognize the best method for compressing image files, and while the system isn’t (yet) able to judge the effect of a compression on the image’s quality, it is able to analyze what methods are the most successful in adjusting the image’s footprint. The group used 6 million random compressed photos and cropped them down to a 32 by 32-pixel chunk. The neural network then selected 100 photos with the least effective compression, learning what not to do by way of example.

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 9.35.41 AM
Google’s artificial intelligence program analyzed a 32×32 pixel section of the photograph above to determine what image compression method worked best. Google

The term “effective” for the AI system may not be exactly the same for photographers looking to shrink file sizes, however — the computer looked at files that, despite compression, still remained quite large. Using the 100 least effective photo chunks, the researchers estimated that the system could learn how to compress simple images.

With that dataset, the system was then able to predict how an image would look after compression, and was further able to create that compressed image itself. Unlike other methods, this approach by Google splits the image into pieces and treats each section independently, selecting the best compression based on how detailed that area of the image is. By compressing the image in sections, the system was able to achieve a smaller file size than traditional compression methods.

While the work looks promising, the size of the file is not the only relevant metric. Measuring the success of each compression based on how the image appears is much less straightforward, since image quality is subjective. The AI system doesn’t look like it’s going to be implemented into something like Google’s cloud storage any time soon, but the study, published last week, does indicate that “smart” compression, where the computer chooses the best method, isn’t too far-fetched.

Product Review

Meet Z6, the breakout star in Nikon's new mirrorless lineup

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Computing

Here's why 64-bit (not 32-bit) dominates modern computing

Today's computing world isn't the same as it once was. With 64-bit processors and operating systems replacing the older 32-bit designs, we look at what 32-bit vs. 64-bit really means for you.
Mobile

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.
Home Theater

Looking for the best 4K Ultra HD TVs you can buy? Here are five great options

If it's time to upgrade your old 1080p to a new 4K model but you don't know what to look for, fear not, as we're here with a list of the best 4K Ultra HD TVs to help make your buying process as easy as possible.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

Photography News: Startup redesigns tripod heads ‘inside out’ for more flexibility

Well, this doesn't look like the ball heads that we've seen before. Instead of designing a tripod ball head with a small cutout, the Colorado Tripod Company created one with most of the ball exposed, allowing for more possible angles.
Photography

MIT science photographer isn’t an artist, but her work could fill galleries

Felice Frankel is an award-winning photographer, but she doesn't consider herself an artist. As a science photographer, she has been helping researchers better communicate their ideas for nearly three decades with eye-catching imagery.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Photography

Leica targets street photographers with a pricey camera bundle

Described by the camera company as "your perfect companion in the city," Leica's Street Kit comprises a Leica CL camera body, a 23mm (35mm full-frame equivalent) F2 lens, batteries, a handgrip, and a black leather carrying strap.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.
Social Media

#ThrowbackThursday is only the start: Instagram hashtags for every day of the week

Not getting your hashtag fill with #ThrowbackThursday or #ManCrushMonday? Here's a list of some of the more popular Instagram hashtags, so you can outfit your next post with the proper tag, regardless of what day it is.
Photography

From DSLRs to mirrorless, these are the best cameras you can buy right now

From entry-level models to full-frame flagships, many cameras take great photos and video. The best digital cameras, however, push the industry forward with innovative sensors and improved usability, among other things. Here are our…
Photography

Photographers can now customize the layout of Lightroom Classic controls

Tired of scrolling past Lightroom tools that you don't use? Adobe Lightroom Classic now allows users to reorganize the Develop panel. The update comes along with new sharing options in Lightroom CC, and updates to the mobile Lightroom app.
Social Media

Instagram could be making a special type of account for influencers

Instagram influencers fall somewhere between a business profile and a typical Instagram, so the company is working on developing a type of account just for creators. The new account type would give creators more access to analytical data.