Ray Tracing

High performance, desktop-quality ray traced visuals on mobile

What is ray tracing?

Traditional rendering has used rasterisation since the early days of 3D. Where the geometry of objects is built up using a mesh of triangles and then ‘shaded’ to generate their look. However, with rasterization, the way the world is lit can only be approximated.

Ray tracing is different.

It works similarly to how light works in the real world. Photons are released from a light source and bounced around the scene until they reach the viewer’s eye. As light interacts with objects, it is obstructed, reflected, or refracted by the items along the way. Resulting in realistic shadows and reflections, including off-screen objects.

This approach to lighting results in considerably more realistic images, boosting visuals while simplifying the lighting process for content creators.

To learn more on the fundamentals of ray tracing read our white paper, “Shining a Light on Ray Tracing”.

Download white paper

For the masses

IMG DXT offers ray tracing in several configurations and performance points using its ray acceleration cluster (RAC). This means that manufacturers looking to deliver a ray tracing capable device at a lower cost can take a half-RAC per SPU to provide the ultimate mobile visual experience. IMG DXT offers single, dual, triple and quad-RAC configurations.

Compared to our previous generation with the same configuration, IMG DXT delivers usable ray tracing at up to 40% lower area cost.

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Our unique approach

Ray tracing is computationally expensive making it challenging to achieve in real time. To make it a reality, our unique architecture contains patented specialist hardware blocks that enable either faster full ray tracing or an efficient hybrid rendering approach that combines traditional rasterisation techniques with ray tracing for realistic lighting, reflections, and shadows.

With IMG DXT, our latest GPU, Imagination has introduced a unique scalable design that can deliver a ray tracing solution in a number of sizes to meet the power and area demands of a wide variety of markets. It also offers new efficiency features to boost the effectiveness of ray tracing, even in configurations that deliver more modest ray budgets.

Choose DXT for a solution that can deliver the optimal balance between image quality and performance.

A visual revolution

As the realism that ray tracing provides becomes the norm on PCs and consoles consumers will expect similar levels of quality on their portable devices. Imagination’s PowerVR architecture-based GPUs are renowned for delivering console-quality graphics on portable devices. Imagination Ray Tracing will continue to deliver the same for the next generation of devices.

Our ‘mobile-first’ approach to ray tracing, with efficiency at its heart, makes it an ideal fit for battery-constrained devices. It promises to bring new levels of visual quality to mobile.

Ray tracing can also be used to enhance a variety of mobile applications, such as augmented reality apps and VR games. The inclusion of ray tracing can add a new layer of immersion.

Cloud-based gaming is expanding the range of options for gamers, but power consumption and heat management are key challenges faced by server farms. Imagination’s highly scalable ray tracing solution will enable cutting-edge cloud gaming, delivering stunning visual-effects quality combined with low power consumption. Which results in delivering the robustness demanded by high-volume cloud gaming environments.

The interiors of modern cars are dominated by displays and the quality of their visuals is becoming a key differentiator for premium brands. Ray tracing can raise the bar for in-car graphics in numerous ways. Surround-view is a key technology that will be increasingly relied upon to deliver safety-critical information to the driver and ray tracing can add unprecedented realism to the images. The distortion correction process surround-view requires can be created more easily and with lower latency using ray tracing. It can also enable distorted or curved rendering in a single pass to precisely map the head-up display (HUD) onto the windscreen.

Many markets rely on pre-visualisation applications to create highly realistic models for virtual prototyping. Industries such as architecture, interior design, property development, and product design all leverage the power of ray tracing for more realistic visualisations. Traditionally, generating these types of images takes a long time to render. However, Imagination Ray Tracing could enable physically-based models to be created in real-time, reducing time to market and improving client satisfaction.

Our PowerVR Photon architecture

As ray tracing can vary in levels of performance, we established the Ray Tracing Levels System (RTLS), ranging from Level 0 to Level 5.

The PowerVR Photon architecture represents the first Level 4 ray tracing solution. This is thanks to a new GPU block called the Ray Acceleration Cluster (RAC). By enhancing ray tracing performance and efficiency, it delivers a desktop-quality ray traced experience for mobile gamers and developers.

Download our white paper

What level are you at?

Ray tracing is causing a huge buzz in markets such as desktop PCs and gaming consoles. However, many do not realise that not all solutions are created equally. To help the industry understand this we have set out the Ray Tracing Levels System. These six levels define how ray tracing solutions have evolved in the recent past and explain how efficiency increases with each level. This is critical for power-sensitive use cases, such as mobile.

To learn more about the unique features offered by Imagination Ray Tracing, such as the Coherency Engine, download our white paper.

Download our white paper

Frequently asked questions

Ray tracing is a technique used in computer graphics to create highly realistic images by simulating the way that light interacts with objects in a scene. The process of ray tracing can be broken down into the following steps:

Casting rays: The first step in ray tracing is to cast rays from the camera through each pixel in the image plane and into the scene. These rays simulate the paths that light would take from the objects in the scene to the camera.

Intersecting with objects: As the rays travel through the scene, they may intersect with objects such as walls, floors, and other objects. When this happens, the ray is reflected, refracted, or absorbed by the object based on its material properties and the angle of incidence of the ray.

Calculating lighting: As the rays travel through the scene, they may also intersect with light sources such as lamps or the sun. When this happens, the colour and intensity of the light is calculated and added to the final colour of the pixel.

Combining colours: The colours of each pixel are calculated based on the materials the rays touch, the angles at which they touch them and the properties of the lights they finally intersect with.

Many modern video games use ray tracing to create highly realistic lighting and shadows. Ray tracing allows game developers to simulate the way that light interacts with objects in a scene, which can make virtual environments feel more immersive and lifelike.

Some examples of games that use ray tracing include:

  • Cyberpunk 2077: This open-world action RPG from CD Projekt Red uses ray tracing to create highly realistic reflections, shadows, and global illumination.
  • Control: This third-person action game from Remedy Entertainment uses ray tracing to create realistic reflections, shadows, and global illumination, as well as to simulate the way that light bounces off of surfaces.
  • Minecraft: The popular sandbox game from Mojang uses ray tracing to create highly realistic lighting and shadows, as well as to add reflections and other visual effects.
  • Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: This first-person shooter from Infinity Ward uses ray tracing to create realistic shadows, ambient occlusion, and reflections.
  • Battlefield V: This first-person shooter from DICE uses ray tracing to create realistic reflections, ambient occlusion, and global illumination.

Ray tracing can also be used to accelerate the game development pipeline. The technology makes it quick and easy for artists to visualise the impact of changing the location, brightness, size or colour of a light source.

Read more on why gamers and developers should care about Ray Tracing.

Rasterization is a technique where a scene is rendered by projecting 3D objects onto a 2D screen, and then filling in the pixels with colours based on the object’s surface properties and lighting conditions. Rasterization is an efficient technique and well-suited for real-time applications such as video games.

On the other hand, ray tracing is a technique that simulates the behaviour of light as it interacts with objects in a 3D scene. In ray tracing, rays are traced from the camera through the scene, and the colours of the pixels are determined based on the objects and lights with which the rays interact. Ray tracing produces highly realistic images with accurate lighting and shadows, but it is computationally intensive and requires either a lot of processing power or specialist hardware.

One key difference between rasterization and ray tracing is how they handle reflections and shadows. Rasterization often uses simplified techniques to simulate reflections and shadows, which can result in less realistic images. Ray tracing, on the other hand, simulates the behaviour of light in a more accurate way, which can lead to more realistic reflections and shadows.

Rasterization is a fast and efficient technique for rendering images in real-time, while ray tracing is a more computationally intensive technique that produces highly realistic images with accurate lighting and shadows. To find out more checkout our blog ray tracing vs rasterization