Two researchers are developing an algorithm designed specifically to 'de-pixelize' 8-bit (and 16-bit) video game graphics in real-time into smoother, more flowing ones. This. changes. everything. No, no it doesn't -- but it does change the amount of time I'll spend playing NES games on an emulator while I'm supposed to be working. *checks to make sure Spy Hunter is still paused in the background* What? I just made it to the boat part!
To achieve such beautiful images, the researchers use a complex blend of pixel analysis and spline curves. These approaches in specific, and vectorization of bitmaps in general, are nothing new -- Adobe Illustrator does it quite well -- but in this case, because the researchers were only working with 8-bit pixel art, they could create a very specialized algorithm.
You know what would be even cooler? If there was an algorithm that made 8-bit graphics look photo-realistic. Now that -- that's the future. "But I thought the future was all personal jetpacks and world peace." HA -- keep dreaming, Nostradamus.
Hit the jump for a bunch more examples, including one from Doom that didn't turn out so hot.
Depixelizing Pixel Art: Upscaling Retro 8-bit Games [extremetech]
Clever program depixelizes old games, makes Mario go soft [dvice]