Joachim Weickert, professor of mathematics and informatics at Saarland University, Germany, has been awarded a European Research Council grant in recognition of his research to improve data compression.
The award of up to €2.46m over a five-year period follows Weickert’s previous Leibniz Prize and will allow him to continue his research for incorporation into future coding standards. He and his team are working on a method that needs to store only a few important pixels but is still able to reconstruct a high-quality image. Using only a very small fraction of the pixels in the original image, their technique could achieve substantial compression ratios.
Weickert said: “The stored pixels can be thought of as tiny air conditioners. The brighter a pixel, the higher its temperature. Just as heat diffuses through space, so too does pixel information, spreading into those neighbouring areas where nothing was stored.”
Weickert has been able to show that at high compression rates techniques of this type have the potential to do better than the established standard methods.
Weickert added: “In five years’ time, we want to be able to use our methods to compress 4K videos and then decompress the resulting file in real time.
“To do that, our algorithms need to get faster by a factor of about 100. Ten years ago, well-respected colleagues were telling me, ‘Forget it, you’ll never do it.’ Then we were awarded the Leibniz Prize. And now we’ve received the ERC grant.”