A new algorithm can transform diagonally connected single pixels into smooth, curved contours, turning retro video game art into Disneyfied cartoon characters. The method allows images to be magnified without distorting their appearance.
Johannes Kopf of Microsoft and Dani Lischinski of the Hebrew University built the algorithm and used it to modify the Super Mario World dolphin seen below, among other characters. Yoshi's rounded eyes make him look drowsy, and the curvy Space Invaders somehow appear more angry.
The algorithm uses a combination of pixel analysis and spline curves to smooth out the drawings, the researchers explain. Other software programs can do this — Adobe Illustrator has its own vectorization process, as the blog Extreme Tech points out, and previous researchers have tried to smooth out pixel art.
But this algorithm works with 8-bit art, so it can be more specific, and the result is a more accurate portrayal. It figures out where the important connections lie between pixels, and then reshapes the pixel cells themselves so that they are connected to their neighbors via the cardinal (up and down, side to side) and diagonal edges. In the diagram below, you can see how the pixel cells around the ghost are reshaped from squares into asymmetric shapes.
The algorithm also minimizes spline curves as they pass through several points — rounding out the edges where the squares meet. As a result, staircasing artifacts that show up as blobs or weird halos in Adobe Trace are eliminated, and you get a shape that remains true to the artists' original form, but without the characteristic blocky pixels.
"The best pixel art from the golden age of video games are masterpieces, many of which have become cultural icons that are instantly recognized by a whole generation, e.g. 'Space Invaders' or the 3-color Super Mario Bros. sprite," Kopf and Lischinski write.
This algorithm casts them in a new light.
Practically speaking, this technology could improve inputs for modern display screens, which have a much higher refresh rate than older hardware for which these games were developed. Then browser-based video games would be even more fun.
"which have a much higher refresh rate than older hardware".
May be author meant higher resolution? Refresh rates have nothing to do with pixelation and antialiasing.
Very nice work. I'm sure this algorithm will be quite useful, especially if it has low overhead. Assuming it's fast, I'd like to see a stand-alone overlay program that can be placed over any old video game emulator window that has been scaled up for a large video display. That way, without changing any of the code for these old games, you get better graphics across the board for all of them. By using such an algorithm as an overlay filter there would be so many uses (e.g. photo editing, font smoothing where it can't be done now).
About time someone came up with something specifically for pixel art.
not bad. You can now get "high-def" remakes of EVERY single 8 and 16 bit game ever made with little to no work or trouble!!!
I see a lot of companies cashing in on this! but I am good with my next gen systems. old games, HD or not are too boring for me... sorry I hate to say it.
BUT I did just play through doom 2 again all the through. Still fun. But that is about as far back as I am willing to travel in my video game time machine.
(OMG my message didn't get blocked!!! has popsci fixed their BETTER than NOTHING but still REALLY annoying Spam filter!?!?!)
Now, if only they would incorporate it into an emulator..
So this is how the folks at CSI magically get their ID's from from ridiculously grainy photos and video's...
OMG this is awesome! Growing up in the nes/snes days, this would be amazing encoded in an emulator!
Some of the golden games on the list
Super Mario Brothers 3
Legend of Zelda
*Final Fantasy Tactics* (if psx quality is possible, was a pixel based game)
So many more!
1134 - Most of the emulators out there already have Sai, HQ, IQ, etc types of pixel smoothing. IE, most of the old school games already do look a LOT better on emulators then they originally looked on your TV.
However, crappy looking games still look crappy.
Still, I have to question the overall usefulness of this new algorithm as its not like there is a high demand for "Smoothed" 8/16bit graphics.
Yes there are some great emulators out there with smoothing features, I just had hoped this would be better...
I would be curious what Wiiware makes annually with all the retro games they sell there. I don't have a wii but their virtual market alone I bet pulls in quite a penny with all their old school games. I could see Nintendo jumping on this with all the retro games under their belt.
Really? Neato, 2xSai rendering with Eagle filters got an article in Popular Science finally! What's next, an article on using optical media for gaming systems? 1995 here we come!
ok, microsoft, when will this become available to consumers? it had better be sometime soon. I'VE BEEN WAITING!!!
sry to post twice in a row, but i wonder what some of the old Atari games would look like after being filtered.......