Free AI tool restores old photos by creating slightly new loved ones

It works wonderfully, but there's a risk of a 'slight change of identity.'

Wang, X. et. al

You can find AI that creates new images, but what if you want to fix an old family photo? You might have a no-charge option. Louis Bouchard and PetaPixel have drawn attention to a free tool recently developed by Tencent researchers, GFP-GAN (Generative Facial Prior-Generative Adversarial Network), that can restore damaged and low-resolution portraits. The technology merges info from two AI models to fill in a photo's missing details with realistic detail in a few seconds, all the while maintaining high accuracy and quality.

Conventional methods fine-tune an existing AI model to restore images by gauging differences between the artificial and real photos. That frequently leads to low-quality results, the scientists said. The new approach uses a pre-trained version of an existing model (NVIDIA's StyleGAN-2) to inform the team's own model at multiple stages during the image generation process. The technique aims to preserve the "identity" of people in a photo, with a particular focus on facial features like eyes and mouths.

You can try a demo of GFP-GAN for free. The creators have also posted their code to let anyone implement the restoration tech in their own projects.

This project is still bound by the limitations of current AI. While it's surprisingly accurate, it's making educated guesses about missing content. The researchers warned that you might see a "slight change of identity" and a lower resolution than you might like. Don't rely on this to print a poster-sized photo of your grandparents, folks. All the same, the work here is promising — it hints at a future where you can easily rescue images that would otherwise be lost to the ravages of time.