Artificial intelligence makes blurry faces look more than 60 times sharper

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This AI turns blurry pixelated photos into hyperrealistic portraits that look like real people. The system automatically increases any image’s resolution up to 64x, ‘imagining’ features such as pores and eyelashes that weren’t there in the first place.

Duke University researchers have developed an AI tool that can turn blurry, unrecognizable pictures of people’s faces into eerily convincing computer-generated portraits, in finer detail than ever before.

Previous methods can scale an image of a face up to eight times its original resolution. But the Duke team has come up with a way to take a handful of pixels and create realistic-looking faces with up to 64 times the resolution, ‘imagining’ features such as fine lines, eyelashes and stubble that weren’t there in the first place.

“Never have super-resolution images been created at this resolution before with this much detail,” said Duke computer scientist Cynthia Rudin, who led the team.

The system cannot be used to identify people, the researchers say: It won’t turn an out-of-focus, unrecognizable photo from a security camera into a crystal clear image of a real person. Rather, it is capable of generating new faces that don’t exist, but look plausibly real.

While the researchers focused on faces as a proof of concept, the same technique could in theory take low-res shots of almost anything and create sharp, realistic-looking pictures, with applications ranging from medicine and microscopy to astronomy and satellite imagery, said co-author Sachit Menon ’20, who just graduated from Duke with a double-major in mathematics and computer science.

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