Towards improved lossy image compression: Human image reconstruction with public-domain images

Ashutosh Bhown, Soham Mukherjee, Sean Yang, Shubham Chandak, Irena Fischer-Hwang, Kedar Tatwawadi, Judith Fan, Tsachy Weissman

Lossy image compression has been studied extensively in the context of typical loss functions such as RMSE, MS-SSIM, etc. However, compression at low bitrates generally produces unsatisfying results. Furthermore, the availability of massive public image datasets appears to have hardly been exploited in image compression. Here, we present a paradigm for eliciting human image reconstruction in order to perform lossy image compression. In this paradigm, one human describes images to a second human, whose task is to reconstruct the target image using publicly available images and text instructions. The resulting reconstructions are then evaluated by human raters on the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform and compared to reconstructions obtained using state-of-the-art compressor WebP. Our results suggest that prioritizing semantic visual elements may be key to achieving significant improvements in image compression, and that our paradigm can be used to develop a more human-centric loss function. The images, results and additional data are available at

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