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Teaching computers to see ... sharp!

A deep neural network for single image autofocus and artificial accommodation - an project supported by the Volkswagen Stiftung under the initiative "Experiment!"

During the last few years artificial neural networks, and in particular so-called deep neural networks, have made a huge leap forward in the field of computer vision. These methods provide spectacular results in object recognition and in the analysis of complex scenes. However, one of the main requirements for their application is that images used for input are in focus and sharp. Out of focus images appear blurry and prevent a successful analysis. In comparison our eyes are able to adjust the focus via accommodation.

Is it possible to teach an artificial neural network depth perception like our eyes do?

If yes, such a network could be used to adjust the focus of a lens based on a single image instantaneously. Such a technique would have a broad impact on almost any optical application, from simple photography on mobile phones to microscopy, robotic vision, self-driving cars, or the development of vision aids with artificial accommodation, and may even provide insights into the function of the retina through scrutinizing the trained network.

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Dr. Torsten Straßer
Universitätsklinikum Tübingen
Institute for Ophthalmic Research
Tübingen, Germany
E-mail: torsten.strasser[at]

The Volkswagen Foundation

The Volkswagen Foundation is an independent foundation incorporated under private law with registered office in Hanover. Its overall funding volume of around 150 million euros per year makes it Germany's largest private research funding foundation, and indeed one of the country's largest foundations altogether. The Foundation provides funds only to academic institutions. Since it was founded more than 50 years ago, the Volkswagen Foundation has allocated more than 4.7 billion euros in support of over 30,000 projects. It is thereby one of the largest common benefit foundations under private law in all of Germany.

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