Nvidia and Microsoft Bring Ray-Tracing To Games

Real-time ray tracing has been a dream of the graphics industry and game developers for decades.

Posted April 4,2018 in Gaming.

Mike Daniel
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Nvidia and Microsoft Bring Ray-Tracing To Games

The holy grail of graphics is often said to be ray-tracing, a rendering technique that traces the path of light rays in an image or video that illuminate and fill a scene. The technology can enable cinema-level visuals that have accurate lighting, shadows and reflections to make a virtual scene look significantly more realistic than other rendering techniques.

The problem is that it takes a lot of graphical horsepower to do this, which puts ray-tracing out of the reach of even the most powerful consumer graphics cards. But Microsoft and Nvidia have joined forces to bring ray-tracing rendering to games later this year, with the use of the latter’s Volta GPU architecture.

That’s arguably quite a lofty ambition, but Microsoft is adding its DirectX Ray-tracing software to its DirectX 12 application programming interface (API), an established industry graphics standard. And Nvidia is working on RTX, a set of hardware and software algorithms designed to support ray-tracing on its next generation graphics card architecture.

“Real-time ray tracing has been a dream of the graphics industry and game developers for decades, and Nvidia RTX is bringing it to life,” said Tony Tamasi, senior vice-president of content and technology at Nvidia.

“GPUs are only now becoming powerful enough to deliver real-time ray tracing for gaming applications, and will usher in a new era of next-generation visuals.”

Ray-tracing is nothing particularly new, and is commonly used in movie-making to render life like worlds for fantasy and sci-fi flicks. But now there’s a good chance that technology will be able to feed into the next swathe of triple-A games without knocking frame rates below the PC gaming standard of 60 frames per second.

Nvidia’s RTX tech, when used with its upcoming Volta GPUs, will allow for ray-tracing work to be offloaded from the main graphics processor to dedicated onboard hardware. It will also use the Tensor compute engines on Volta cards, which are typically used to power machine-learning algorithms rather than push pixels and render scenes.

While Volta cards have yet to reach the gaming PCs, Nvidia already has notable widely used game engines and tools, such as the Unity, Unreal and Frostbite engines, on board to work with ray-tracing. Developers from Remedy, EA and 4A Games are all keen to support the use of the fancy rendering tech.

Simply put, 2018 looks like being avery interesting year forthe future of graphics in the gaming arena.