Google just made a tired old movie cliche come true


How many shaky TV and movie plots have been saved by that classic impossible trope, the enhance and zoom? Here’s how it works in a fantasy world where images can magically generate more pixels, allowing you to zoom in with amazing detail.

It would be handy if this technology existed, not just because it would offer legitimacy to lazy TV script writers looking to close a glaring loophole in their plotline, but because it could actually offer real help to real law enforcement. The truth is if you tried that in real life right now, you’d just get a bunch of extra large pixels, and no new leads. We have the zoom, we don’t have the enhance.

But Google’s latest research paper has come one step closer to fixing a thousand movie plot holes. The Google Brain software has been conditioned to predict what a tiny 8×8 photo might look like when blown up to 32×32… and the results are surprisingly impressive, if not 100% accurate.

Take a look at how it works in practice. The righthand column contains the original picture, the left hand column shows an 8×8 version of it. The middle column is Google Brain’s best guess as to what the 8×8 picture would look like blown up.

Not bad, huh? I mean, not good enough to convict someone, and the video I embedded earlier is still as loopy as ever, but this is impressive stuff. Impressive enough that when humans were shown a real celebrity face against an upscaled one from Google Brain, they were fooled 10% of the time (where 50% would be a perfect score). With images of bedrooms, humans were fooled 28% of the time. Suffice it to say these are big improvements on standard bicubic scaling which doesn’t come close to tricking human brains.

That means that what you’re looking at isn’t a real image, of course, which means you’d have a hard time justifying its use in law enforcement without some serious ethical questions. Nonetheless, if you’re writing some dystopian crime drama where the rule of law is compromised, your plot twist isn’t quite as ridiculous as was seemed yesterday.

Image: CSI

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