Unlike traditional bitmap graphics, which are made up of an array of pixels, vector graphics consist of lines, curves and shapes that are based on geometric formulas. Not only do they take up far less memory than bitmaps, but sections of them can also be enlarged without any loss of resolution. Currently, however, vector graphics aren’t well-suited to photorealistic applications, such as video. That may be about to change, though, as researchers from the UK’s University of Bath have developed a new program that is said to overcome such limitations – the scientists believe that the technology could make pixels obsolete within five years.

The main problem with vector graphics is that they tend to be made up of sharply-defined areas of solid color, lacking the subtle transitions between those areas that are seen in bitmaps. As a result, the graphics are good for things like posters and animation, but tend to look a little cartoon-like.

The new codec (a program that encodes or decodes a digital video stream) is reportedly capable of filling in the boundaries between the elements in vector images. No details have been released regarding how the process works. The result, however, is moving vector-based video that is said to be equal in quality to bitmap video.

“This is a significant breakthrough which will revolutionize the way visual media is produced,” said Prof. Phil Willis, of the university’s Department of Computer Science.

The codec was developed in partnership with tech firms Root6 Technology, Smoke & Mirrors and Ovation Data Services. Commercial partners are now being sought to develop the technology further.

Samples of the vector-based video can be seen at the UBath link below.