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Graphics Software Technology

Vector Vengeance: British Claim They Can Kill the Pixel Within Five Years 221

MrSeb writes "The humble pixel — the 2D picture element that has formed the foundation of just about every kind of digital media for the last 50 years — may soon meet its maker. Believe it or not, if a team of British are to be believed, the pixel, within five short years, will be replaced with vectors. If you know about computer graphics, or if you've ever edited or drawn an image on your computer, you know that there are two primary ways of storing image data: As a bitmap, or as vectors. A bitmap is quite simply a giant grid of pixels, with the arrangement and color of the pixels dictating what the image looks like. Vectors are an entirely different beast: In vector graphics, the image is described as a series of mathematical equations. To draw a bitmap shape you just color in a block of pixels; with vector graphics, you would describe the shape in terms of height, width, radius, and so on. At the moment, bitmaps are used almost exclusively in the realm of digital media — but that isn't to say they don't have their flaws. As display (and camera and cinema) resolution increases, so does the number of pixels. The obvious problem with this is that larger bitmaps are computationally more expensive to process, resulting in a slower (or more expensive) workflow. Pixel bitmaps don't scale very gracefully; reduction is okay, but enlargement is a no-no. There is always the issue of a master format, too: With pixel bitmaps, conversions from one format to another, or changing frame rates, is messy, lossy business. Which finally leads us back to the innovation at hand: Philip Willis and John Patterson of the University of Bath in England have devised a video codec that replaces pixel bitmaps with vectors (PDF)."
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Vector Vengeance: British Claim They Can Kill the Pixel Within Five Years

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  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <kensama@vt.edu> on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @04:29PM (#42264849) Homepage Journal
    Second thought: The article is light on details and sensationally titled, so it goes in the bullshit bin.

    Probably what happened is someone came up with a good raster->vector converter that does some cool things in their lab, and the technologically ignorant British tabloid journalist went to town on it.
  • Yeah, not real. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @04:32PM (#42264893)

    Vectors are accurate as long as you've described the vector completely accurately.

    If you're defining a curve, unless it's a simple geometric curve, you'll need to define the parameters of that curve and they just don't stop: they're fractal.

    How big a set of parameters do you think it would take to define MERELY THE OUTLINE of a squirrel?

    So you're just as limited by vectors as you are with bitmaps. You're going to have to approximate.

  • by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @05:03PM (#42265271) Homepage
    That's exactly why it's the journalists fault - their job isn't to follow along with whatever self-promoting bullshit the person being interviewed is spewing.
  • by Samantha Wright ( 1324923 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @05:05PM (#42265287) Homepage Journal

    The fault lies with the university's PR department this time. It appears they took an off-handed comment about pixel-based codecs being completely surpassed in half a decade, and sound-bit it as "the pixel will be dead in five years." Extremetech didn't exactly help things along, either.

    I'm somewhat confident that if someone had invented a continuous method of storing and displaying images, it would be picked up by somewhat more prominent sources.

  • Re:Teribad summary (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cnettel ( 836611 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @05:06PM (#42265303)

    All current input hardware uses fairly rectangular input grids. However, this is often far from the truth. A digital camera contains pixels, but each pixel is covered by a color filter. In a JPEG from the camera, all pixels are represented (and compressed), but some information is already only a result of interpolation. This is one reason for why RAW is preferable, no lying about the information around. One could make hexagonal sensors or sensors with varying pixel density for a greater and more affordable field of view, or weird lens designs where the projection is not rectangular. If you have vector or mesh-free image data you have much greater freedom in designing both input and output methodology.

  • by Dishevel ( 1105119 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @05:32PM (#42265639)

    You are thinking of what "The Press" used to mean.
    Today they are partisan PR firms. Although they do well at demanding respect.
    Not so well at earning any though.

  • Re:Finally at last (Score:2, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday December 12, 2012 @08:27PM (#42267451)
    Actually the newest displays are so high density most people's eyes can't resolve the pixels, so an iPad might as well be a vector monitor.

I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright