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Fri, Aug 5 2011 16:34:16 UTC

Interview with JPEGmini

Today we have an interview with Dror Gill from JPEGmini, a new technology company that allows pictures and images to be compressed like never before.

Could you describe yourself and your role at ICVT?

My name is Dror Gill, and I'm the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of ICVT. I've been managing the development of multimedia systems and consulting on multimedia strategy for the past 20 years, in companies such as NEC, Samsung, Zoran, IBM and Emblaze.

Could you briefly describe JPEGmini?

JPEGmini is a photo recompression technology, which reduces the file size of photos by up to 5X, without affecting their perceptual quality. We have recently launched an online service at JPEGmini.com, which enables users to process an unlimited number of photos for free using our JPEGmini technology.

What makes JPEGmini able to compress images so much more than normal JPEG?

A normal JPEG encoder requires the user to set a compression level parameter. Setting a high compression level results in large file size. On the other hand, setting a low compression level may cause artifacts to appear in the compressed image. Our algorithm analyzes each individual image according to perceptual qualities of the human visual system, and sets the optimal compression level which results in the minimal possible file size, without creating any visible artifacts. This enables us to perform fully automatic, maximal compression of photos with no human intervention required.

Are there image types where the JPEGmini compression will look better or worse?

The way our algorithm is designed, any photo that undergoes JPEGmini compression will look perceptually identical to the original photo. This means that a user who views the original photo and the JPEGmini photo on a computer screen at 100% zoom (where each pixel on the screen corresponds to a pixel in the photo) will not be able to tell the difference between them.

What varies between different images is the amount of file size reduction that is possible, and this is mostly dependant on resolution but also on image content. You can find a table in the technology section of our website which shows the typical file size reduction for each resolution.

How did JPEGmini come about, how did the idea start?

We were talking with the manager of a large data center which provides online backup and synchronization for user data - their contacts, calendar, etc. but not their photos. He claimed that storage requirements for backing up user photos were just too large. This got us thinking that there must be a way to reduce the storage requirements of photos. When we examined the photos produced by digital cameras, we found that the compression level was set very high, to ensure that no artifacts were created in any photo, resulting in very large files. This lead us to the development of our perceptual quality measure, which can detect which artifacts are visible by a human viewer, and thus perform image-adaptive photo compression which is much more efficient.

How well supported is JPEGmini, can one such image be used everywhere a normal JPEG can?

JPEGmini files are in standard baseline JPEG format, so they can be viewed and edited by any browser, photo software or consumer device. From the beginning it was very important for us to keep the technology fully compatible to the JPEG standard, to ensure the widest adoption possible with no need for plug-ins, special viewer software, etc.

A lot of image formats have patent and trademark issues that make them unpopular, how is JPEGmini doing in this area?

The JPEG standard doesn't have any patent or trademark issues, so JPEGmini images just like any JPEG image can be used anywhere. However, since we are a commercial company, we have patented the technology for creating JPEGmini images. We are currently offering our technology as a free online service at JPEGmini.com, and plan to license the technology to companies in the future.

What kind of use feedback have you seen so far for JPEGmini?

We have been getting great feedback from our users so far. They are amazed by the amount of file size reduction that can be achieved, and by the quality of the resulting photos. For example, Mike Baird, who is a well-known bird photographer and author of Engineering Your Start-up: A Guide for the High-Tech Entrepreneur, wrote to us: ''Your smart JPG compression scheme would seem to hold great promise amongst a wide variety of potential customers. ...I see in JPEGmini all the elements of another successful startup''.

Several users have asked us about making our technology available for offline use, either on their own web servers, as a stand-alone desktop application, or a plug-in to Photoshop. Such feedback is helping us shape our future product offerings.

Are you working on any new project you can tell us about?

We have been working for some time now on applying our technology to video, and achieved very good results. We can't discuss this in detail since we are still in the process of filing the IP for it, but we feel that this could be an even bigger opportunity for us than the photo technology...

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