Ray tracing ripe for embedded devices

October 25, 2018 // By Benny Har-Even
After a period out of the spotlight, ray tracing technology has recently come back into focus. The primary reason is because graphics cards for the PC gaming market have been released from NVIDIA that support the ground-breaking graphics technology. It’s still early days, and even the PC GPU giant didn’t have games at the launch, proving again the difficulty of creating an eco-system around a new technology.

Once the puzzle has been completed, consumers will see the full picture and will want to see ray-traced graphics in all their devices. Imagination Technologies was the first to make ray tracing technology a reality. Where our approach differed is that it was designed from the ground up for deployment on embedded hardware within a strict power envelope. In other words, Imagination doing what it does best – making cutting-edge technology work efficiently.

In any article about ray tracing the phrase is quickly followed by the term ‘holy grail’ – as in something that has been long sought after but has always seemed just out of reach. However, we first talked about our ray tracing IP back in 2012, and in 2014 this was followed by the launch of our ray tracing GPU family, a GPU featuring a block dedicated to accelerating ray tracing. This was intended for use in mobile hardware, but for demonstration and ease of development purposes, we had the chip integrated into a PCIe evaluation board, which was running by 2016.

 

What’s all the fuss about?

Let’s quickly recap why ray tracing is considered a big deal. If you look at any 3D graphics scene, the level of realism is highly dependent on the lighting. In traditional graphics rendering known as rasterization, light maps and shadow maps are pre-calculated and then applied to the scene to simulate how the scene should look. However, it is, at best, a poor simulation. Ray tracing is different. It mimics how light behaves in the real world.


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