Which Has Better Visual Quality: The Clear Blue Sky or a Blurry Animal?
Image content variation is a typical and challenging problem in no-reference image quality assessment (NR-IQA). This work pays special attention to the impact of image content variation on NR-IQA methods. To better analyze this impact, we focus on blur-dominated distortions to exclude the impacts of distortion-type variations. We empirically show that current NR-IQA methods are inconsistent with human visual perception when predicting the relative quality of image pairs with different image contents. In view of deep semantic features of pretrained image classification neural networks always containing discriminative image content information, we put forward a new NR-IQA method based on semantic feature aggregation (SFA) to alleviate the impact of image content variation. Specifically, instead of resizing the image, we first crop multiple overlapping patches over the entire distorted image to avoid introducing geometric deformations. Then, according to an adaptive layer selection procedure, we extract deep semantic features by leveraging the power of a pretrained image classification model for its inherent content-aware property. After that, the local patch features are aggregated using several statistical structures. Finally, a linear regression model is trained for mapping the aggregated global features to image-quality scores. The proposed method, SFA, is compared with nine representative blur-specific NR-IQA methods, two general-purpose NR-IQA methods, and two extra full-reference IQA methods on Gaussian blur images (with and without Gaussian noise/JPEG compression) and realistic blur images from multiple databases, including LIVE, TID2008, TID2013, MLIVE1, MLIVE2, BID, and CLIVE. Experimental results show that SFA is superior to the state-of-the-art NR methods on all seven databases. It is also verified that deep semantic features play a crucial role in addressing image content variation, and this provides a new perspective for NR-IQA.PDF Abstract