Clever program depixelizes old games, makes Mario go soft

If you've played Super Mario Bros. on your $85,000 HD 3DTV, you might have noticed how the game has been looking especially 8-bit as of late. We now have a computer algorithm that can automatically fix that for you, and make Mario look as smooth as a freshly-installed toilet fixture.

While programs such as Adobe Illustrator already know how to turn jaggedy pixels into smooth vector graphics, what's special about this new algorithm is that it's been designed and optimized specifically for 8-bit games. For example, fans of Mario know that each and every one of his pixels represents an important feature of his, and where other algorithms might reject contrasting single pixels as noise, this one is smart enough to hang on to those pixels and make sure that they end up as part of the final image.

The other tricky thing about 8-bit images is curving lines. At low resolutions, it's hard for a computer to tell whether a checkerboard-type pattern is intended to represent something curved or not, but this algorithm manages to figure it out anyway, and even goes so far as to incorporate shading as well as hard edges where appropriate.

It's all very "computationally complex," but it's certainly possible that some emulators (or even consoles) could use this algorithm to offer a smoothed mode for classic games. Or at least, for some classic games, since the program does better with some styles of pixel art than others. Take a look at some of the better examples of depixelizing, along with examples of what failure looks like, in the gallery below.

Depixelizing Pixel Art, via ExtremeTech

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