Dmitry Ulyanov, Andrea Vedaldi, Victor S. Lempitsky. Deep Image Prior. CoRR abs/1711.10925, 2017.

Ulyanov et al. utilize untrained neural networks as regularizer/prior for various image restoration tasks such as denoising, inpainting and super-resolution. In particualr, the standard formulation of such tasks, i.e.

$x^\ast = \arg\min_x E(x, x_0) + R(x)$

where $x_0$ is the input image and $E$ a task-dependent data term, is rephrased as follows:

$\theta^\ast = \arg\min_\theta E(f_\theta(z); x_0)$ and $x^\ast = f_{\theta^\ast}(z)$

for a fixed but random $z$. Here, the regularizer $R$ is essentially replaced by an untrained neural network $f_\theta$ – usually in the form of a convolutional encoder. The authors argue that the regualizer is effectively $R(x) = 0$ if the image can be generated by the encoder from the fixed code $z$ and $R(x) = \infty$ if not. However, this argument does not necessarily provide any insights on why this approach works (as demonstrated in the paper).

A main question addressed in the paper is why the network $f_\theta$ can be used as a prior – regarding the assumption that high-capacity networks can essentially fit any image (including random noise). In my opinion, the authors do not give a convincing answer to this question. Essentially, they argue that random noise is just harder to fit (i.e. it takes longer). Therefore, limiting the number of iterations is enough as regularization. Personally I would argue that this observation is mainly due to prior knowledge put into the encoder architecture and the idea that natural images (or any images with some structure) are easily embedded into low-dimensional latent spaced compared to fully I.i.d. random noise.

They provide experiments on a range of tasks including denoising, image inpainting, super-resolution and neural network “inversion”. Figure 1 shows some results for image inpainting that I found quite convincing. For the remaining experiments I refer to the paper.

Figure 1: Qualitative results for image inpainting.

Also find this summary on ShortScience.org.
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