Fancy Phancer software gives your smartphone camera DSLR vibrancy

Phancer artificial intelligence
This sample image was shot with an iPhone 6 and edited using the Phancer AI program. Camera Lab ETH Zurich / Andrey Ignatov et. al.
Smartphone cameras remain more limited than their larger DSLR counterparts, but scientists are hoping to narrow the gap through artificial intelligence. In a recently published paper, scientists from the Computer Vision Lab at ETH Zurich developed a neural network system dubbed “Phancer” that can take a smartphone photo and give it the vibrant colors and sharpness from a DSLR camera.

The team started by training a network using photos taken from the exact same spot with a smartphone and then with a DSLR and comparing the quality between the two. Attempting to transform a smartphone image to a DSLR shot, however, created a loss of content, color and texture. To correct for those changes, the researchers created a 12-layer convolutional neural network (CNN), with three of those CNNs working to correct content loss, color loss and texture loss. The group then trained the system as a whole, which means that the first CCN contains the capabilities of all those layers.

Since the system works on a comparison, the program needs to know which smartphone you used for the shot and which DSLR you would like to imitate. If shots from both are in the database, the system can apply an algorithm to improve that uploaded smartphone shot.

The result is a photo with the exposure and colors that are closer to that DSLR hardware, despite being shot on a smartphone. The system isn’t perfect — researchers say that odd color casts are common, for example, adding a green tint to the overall image. The software can also go overboard on adding contrast, the researchers said, and in images from lower quality cameras, the program can exaggerate noise.

The software only looks at a handful of the differences between smartphones and DSLRs, namely color and sharpness. The research doesn’t mention attempting to mimic the depth of field (which AI can already do with the right hardware, either a dual-lens camera like the iPhone Plus or dual-pixel sensor like the Google Pixel 2). The software in some cases also emphasized the graininess from smartphone cameras that are less pronounced from DSLRs. But, coupled with other research projects and the existing tech, the algorithm could help AI bridge some of that gap between smartphone hardware and dedicated cameras.

The software is available for users to try out online, along with a set of before and after results of what the program can do.

The group isn’t the first to attempt to use AI to give smartphone photos better quality — earlier this year, a group from UC Berkeley created a style transfer algorithm that takes the style of one image and applies it to another, but they included the attempt to transfer DSLR style to a smartphone among the list of failures.


Epic Games is offering $100 million to game developers with no catch

Epic Games launched a new grant program called Epic MegaGrants. The program will dish out $100 million in funds to developers working in the 3D graphics community, even if they don't use Unreal Engine.

Whether by the pool or the sea, make a splash with the best waterproof phones

Whether you're looking for a phone you can use in the bath, or you just want that extra peace of mind, waterproof phones are here and they're amazing. Check out our selection of the best ones you can buy.

Photography News: Taking a smartphone photo probably saved this guy’s life

A man was snapping a photo in Australia when the smartphone stopped an arrow shot at his face. In this week's photography news, see Canon's plans for a stabilized mirrorless, Hasselblad's newest accessories, Samyang's latest lens, and more.

First Apex Legends esports scholarship takes you from filthy casual to pro

Massachusetts-based Becker College is the first college in the nation to offer a scholarship for Apex Legends. The path-to-pro program gives players $5,000 upon admittance to the school.

Forget folding phones, the Insta360 EVO camera folds in half to shoot 360 video

The Insta360 EVO is a...flip camera? Unfolded, the Insta360 Evo shoots 3D in 180 degrees, folded, the new camera shoots in 360 degrees. The EVO launches with what are essentially a pair of 3D glasses for your phone, not your face, the…

Obsbot Tail camera uses A.I. to follow the action (or a pet) for you

Want to capture more epic action selfies, or see what your pet is doing while you're gone? The Obsbot Tail is a camera-gimbal combo that uses artificial intelligence to follow the action.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Write music with your voice, make homemade cheese

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!
Social Media

Twitter takes a cue from Instagram and Snapchat with new quick-swipe camera

Twitter is giving the "what's happening" treatment to photos and video by allowing users to access the in-app camera fast enough to catch and share the moment. The new Twitter camera is now accessible with a swipe.

The Lensbaby Composer Pro II with Edge 35 mimics tilt-shift blur for less cash

Want to create a tilt-shift image on a budget? The new Lensbaby Composer II with Edge 35 mimics the look of a tilt-shift lens for under $500. The new Edge 35 optic is part of the Composer Pro II optics system.

Loupedeck Plus can now edit video, audio with Final Cut Pro

The list of Loupedeck Plus-compatible software is growing. The photo-editing console now works with Final Cut Pro and Adobe Audition for video and audio editing. The controls can be configured to be used on either platform.

The best budget-friendly GoPro alternatives that won’t leave you broke

Cold weather is here, and a good action camera is the perfect way to record all your adventures. You don't need to shell out the big bucks for a GoPro: Check out these great GoPro alternatives, including some 4K cameras, that won’t leave…

Nvidia’s A.I. Playground lets you edit photos, experience deep learning research

Nvidia is making it easier to access information on deep learning research. It has launched an online space with three demos for image editing, styling, as well as photorealistic image synthesis. 

Paper designs digitize in real time using an Illustrator-connected paper tablet

Love graphic design, but prefer the feel of real paper? The new Moleskine Paper Tablet - Creative Cloud Connected syncs with Adobe Illustrator in real time, turning paper sketches into digital drawings.

Insta-checkout? New Instagram service lets you shop without leaving the platform

Shopping on Instagram no longer means leaving the platform to checkout in a web browser. Instagram checkout launched in beta today with a handful of retailers, allowing users to checkout without leaving the app.