SmartDeblur Does Science Fiction-esque Enhancing on Blurry Photos

People often laugh and poke fun at the cliche of impossible image enhancements seen in TV shows and movies, but you won’t be laughing when you see what SmartDeblur can do — you’ll be gawking in amazement. Created by programmer and image processing expert Vladimir Yuzhikov, the program can magically reveal details in photographs that are blurry due to poor focusing and/or shaky hands.

In a length article explaining how the technology works, Yuzhikov writes,

Many people think that blurring is an irreversible operation and the information in this case is lost for good, because each pixel turns into a spot, everything mixes up, and in case of a big blur radius we will get a flat color all over the image. But it is not quite true—all the information just becomes redistributed in accordance with some rules and can be definitely restored with certain assumptions.

His program takes this redistributed information and — like in the case of Humpty Dumpty — puts it back together again. Here’s what the software looks like when you open it up:

The process is simple. First, you choose the defect type that you’re working with: out of focus, motion blur, or Gaussian blur. Next, you drag the Radius slider until the details you want come into focus. Finally, you drag the Smooth slider until you arrive at your desired quality.

In the screenshot above, the program is loaded with a sample photograph of words printed on a piece of paper — a photograph that’s so out of focus that none of the words are legible. Here’s what the program can recover from that photograph:

The program magically makes the text in the blurry photograph readable.

Official samples are usually chosen for their ability to demonstrate the strengths of what’s being tested, so we also did some tests using photos of our own. We shot an intentionally out-of-focus photograph of a page in a magazine, and then attempted to recover the text. Here’s the before-and-after:

What was once a blurry mess was turned into a sharper and slightly more legible mess. Amazingly, we could actually read a good number of the words from the fixed photograph.

Here’s another before-and-after example, shot by Yuzhikov himself using a Canon 500D:

In our experience, the software is hit-and-miss. Photos need to be blurry in the correct way for the program to do its magic, but when it does it’s quite amazing. Another thing to note is that the results aren’t very aesthetically pleasing — there are halos and artifacts everywhere. It’s not so much for geared toward photography as it is toward forensics — recovering important details from previously unusable images.

You might remember that late last year, we reported that Adobe is hard at work researching the same thing. Their preview of the technology and sample photos dropped a lot of jaws at the time, with people everywhere begging for the feature to be offered in the next iteration of Photoshop.

We still haven’t seen Adobe’s technology appear in the wild, but Yuzhikov’s is already available. You can find it as a free download for Windows over at GitHub. Go ahead — give it a shot on your own photographs and let us know how it performs!

SmartDeblur (via Vladimir Yuzhikov via Gizmodo)

Image credits: Photographs by Vladimir Yuzhikov

  • NewGuy

    I sometimes use the Photoshop ‘Blur” tool to obscure serial #’s, sensitive info, etc, guess I should rethink that method!

  • Michael Zhang

    Try the Pixelate->Mosaic tool instead :)

  • Tam Nguyen Photography

    I use Paint to black it out. Like a BAUSS!

  • Terrance Lam

    be interesting to see how it works on all those blurred license plates in google street view.


    this program is a joke. I tried it and it draws weird circles.

  • Ivan

    How about debluring AA filter blur? A software-based version of Nikon D800E or Pentax K-5IIs, and without moire? Looks plausible?

  • nam

    useless for photographer.. but sure has sioem other uses.

  • Sporkguy

    How are those photos blurred? They’re just out of focus.

  • Jeffrey Friedl

    You’ve got to be careful with blur (and mosaic) because they work the same way for everyone… so if I blur all the digits and get a result in one of them that seems to match one of yours, I can then match them all up and voila’, I’ve got your info. For those old-school computer folks, blurring is essentially “rot-13″.

    Better to black it out, or move digits around and *then* blur…. once you move digits around, the blurring doesn’t matter, but doing so avoid causing worry among friends who think you’re revealing sensitive stuff… :-)

  • Jackson Cheese

    Not cool. Things are blurred out of photos for a reason. This could have legal ramifications.

  • Marcel de Jong

    then they should rethink the blurring… do it CIA style, by blacking out the lines.

  • Markus Wolpert

    Virustotal marks it as infected 2/44
    (Symantec: WS.Reputation.1, Trend Micro Housecall: TROJ_GEN.F47V1021)
    Any ideas if it’s still safe or not?

  • 11

    I am impressed. Although it may not be used as it is.. it still does the groundwork.

  • jesseyardley

    Yeah, but can he unscramble my scrambled eggs?

  • Roy

    Yep, that’s what the article said.

  • Roy

    How are these even photos? They’re just images.

  • Roy

    Try it on pictures of wheat fields. Instant proof of an alien invasion.

  • Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Yeah, and do it right, not with PDF mark-over.

  • Vladimir Yuzhikov

    Hi all,

    Thank you for your interest in my article!
    I’ve published the second part of “restoring defocused and blurred images” article. Practical issues and their solutions are described.
    Also blind deconvolution module (like Adobe’s demonstration) for the SmartDeblur announced.

    Vladimir Yuzhikov

  • xoAnna

    Yeah but this is free! Most others that actually do what they say cost money…