The games of yesteryear make us all nostalgic for times when the most complicated gaming move was making that super long jump in Super Mario or pulling off infinite “hadoukens” in Street Fighter.
However, if you hook them up to your fancy flat-screen television today, your games aren’t going to look that great. Pixelated characters look more like boxy colored blobs on the screen. But now you can relive seeing some of your favorite, and some lesser known, video game characters in a whole new art-style thanks to a new algorithm.
Johannes Kopf of Microsoft and Dani Lischinski of The Hebrew University have developed an algorithm that takes low-resolution 8-bit pixel art and smooths it out into beautiful vector art. If they could implement this technology into a sweet remake of the games, I think they would become heroes of the nostalgic video game world.
Since they were only working with 8-bit art, they were able to develop a special mathematical algorithm that will find the pixels and determine how they relate to each other. This will turn the boxed art into smooth lines, making an enjoyable, beautiful, high resolution character.
The algorithm itself is mathematically complicated, but can be summarized in a simple sense. It takes into account every pixel, since every one was created with purpose, then determines how they are connected in a 2×2 area to figure whether they would form a diagonal line or not. Then these groups of pixels are smoothed out, re-shaped and rendered as edges or shaded areas.
Most of the time the technology works very well, creating high definition images of the characters. However, when they did this with an image from Doom that turns it a little ugly. Close, but no cigar.
The past was creating pictures with little squares, but now we are able to bring the past into the present with pretty cell-shaded images.