AI past -AI will eradicate 70% of jobs, and quite possibly end the human race. These are two recurring themes in media coverage of artificial intelligence.
It’s scary stuff, but AI also has an important part to play in mapping our past and present. Put together machine learning, neural networks and a vat full of data, give them a stir, and you can get amazing results. Today you can restore photos, but one day we may be able to use AI to map out the past in VR.
Here we take a look at some of the current research into AI that’s exploring some promising, and far less threatening, uses for the technology.
Rips and creases in historical pics? Scratched out eyes in a photo of your ex from 10 years ago? AI can fix all that.
Several AI and machine learning projects that are in the works take a photo that’s noisy, ripped or blurred and make it pristine using restoration algorithms that do far more that you could with a photo editor, or a felt-tip pen and some Tipp-Ex.
Deep Image Prior, a neural network created by an Oxford University research team, and Nvidia’s image reconstruction, demonstrated in April of this year, show how AI can digitally restore a partially obliterated image.
Nvidia’s process involves training its AI by taking chunks of images from image libraries ImageNet, Places2 and CelebA-HQ, which are huge repositories of images of almost every kind of common object.
Just as you might learn to draw by sketching real-life objects, the image reconstruction algorithms here are finessed by re-drawing chunks of missing image data in these photos, then referring to the ‘complete’ original picture to see how accurate the attempt was.
These algorithms use some of the same techniques as a restorer of oil paintings. We’re talking about ‘in-painting’. This is where cracks and other damage in a painting are differentiated from deliberate texture or brush-strokes, and then filled in to make the picture look as it would have when first painted.
Restorers use X-rays, which reveal the different layers of paint, to do this manually. AI replicates some of the effect with machine learning.
Let’s not let loose robots with paint brushes on any old masters just yet, but AI could also be used to reveal what a painting looked like hundreds of years ago, without the need to spend tens of thousands of dollars on restoration.