In this paper, an efficient data hiding method that embeds data into absolute moment block truncation coding (AMBTC) codes is proposed. The AMBTC method represents image blocks by trios, and each trio consists of two quantization levels and an asymmetrically distributed bitmap. However, the asymmetric phenomena of bitmaps cause large degradation in image quality during data embedment. With the help of reference tables filled with symmetrical patterns, the proposed method exploits a symmetry adjustment model to modify the quantization levels in those smooth blocks to achieve the smallest distortion. If the block is complex, a lossless embedding method is performed to carry one additional bit. A sophisticated division switching mechanism is also proposed to modify a block from smooth to complex if the solution to the minimal distortion cannot be found. The payload can be adjusted by varying the threshold, or by embedding more bits into the quantization levels. The experiments indicate that the proposed work provides the best stego image quality under various payloads when comparing to the related prior works.
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