Upsampling image and video files usually leads to pixelation and soft textures, simply because algorithms are not capable of replacing non-existing image detail. But scientists at the Max-Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Germany have come up with a clever solution that is capable of producing better results than anything we've seen so far.

The team has developed a tool called EnhanceNet-PAT, which is capable of creating high-definition versions of low-resolution images, using artificial intelligence. It's not the first attempt at solving the super-resolution task but the approach is a new one.

Talking to Digital Trends, Mehdi M.S. Sajjadi, a member of the research team said

"Before this work, even the state of the art has been producing very blurry images, especially at textured regions. The reason for this is that they asked their neural networks the impossible - to reconstruct the original image with pixel-perfect accuracy. Since this is impossible, the neural networks produce blurry results. We take a different approach by instead asking the neural network to produce realistic textures. To do this, the neural network takes a look at the whole image, detects regions, and uses this semantic information to produce realistic textures and sharper images.”

To train the technology, large image libraries were fed into the AI-based system to accumulate knowledge of textures. The neural network is then given the task of upsampling previously downsized images. Finally, the research team compares the results to the original high-resolution image and modifies the algorithm to correct for errors or inconsistencies—this way, the algorithm keeps improving and after some time can work without any human help.

According to the team, photographic applications for the network include upsampling old movies to 4K resolution or restoring old photographs. However, the system could also be used to enhance object detection, for example in image search or mobility applications, such as self-driving cars. It seems that cheesy "Enhance!" trope from CSI is about to become reality...

To learn more about this technology, check out the full research paper here.