Ray tracing – now available on mobile
Imagination presents IMG CXT GPU which introduces the revolutionary PowerVR Photon architecture, bringing high-performance, desktop-quality ray traced visuals to the palm of your hand. Delivering up to 1.3GRay/s, CXT-powered devices will bring features such as ray traced shadows, reflections, global illumination, and ambient occlusion with high frame rates to users on the go.
What is ray tracing?
Since the early days of 3D, traditional rendering has been performed using rasterisation, where the geometry of objects are built up using a mesh of triangles and then ‘shaded’ to create their appearance. However, with rasterisation the way the world is lit can be only be approximated.
Ray tracing is different.
It mimics how light works in the real world, where photons are emitted from a light source and bounced around the scene until they reach the eye of the viewer. Ray tracing sends out rays from the viewer (the screen) into the scene, onto objects and from there to the light source. As the light interacts with objects it is blocked, reflected, or refracted by the objects along the way, depending on their material properties, creating shadows and reflections, even of off-screen objects.
And once the rays are fired into the scene the lighting process occurs naturally, which means developers do not have to spend time creating, “fake” lighting effects.
This elegant approach to lighting scenes helps delivers graphics with far greater realism, improving games and visual applications while simplifying the lighting process for content creators.
To better understand the fundamentals of ray tracing read our white paper, “Shining a Light on Ray Tracing”.
Imagination Ray Tracing – 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.
Through this, Imagination has created a solution that offers an optimal balance between image quality and performance.
The PowerVR Photon architecture
Imagination’s Photon architecture represents a decade of development in making ray tracing not just viable, but rapid, in low-power embedded devices such as smartphones. As ray tracing can be done with varying levels of performance and efficiency 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), enhancing ray tracing performance and efficiency to deliver a desktop-quality ray traced experience for mobile gamers and developers.
What level are you at? Discover the six levels of ray tracing
Ray tracing is causing a buzz in markets such as desktop PCs and gaming consoles, but many do not realise that not all solutions are created equal.
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 increase with each level, which is especially critical for power-sensitive use cases, such as mobile.
The six levels of ray tracing:
- Level 0 – Legacy Solutions
- Level 1 – Software on Traditional GPUs
- Level 2 – Ray/Box and Ray/Tri Testers in Hardware
- Level 3 – Bounding Volume Hierarchy (BVH) Processing in Hardware
- Level 4 – BVH Processing with Coherency Sorting in Hardware
- Level 5 – Coherent BVH Processing with Scene Hierarchy Generator in Hardware
To learn more about the unique features offered by Imagination Ray Tracing, such as the Coherency Engine, download our white paper.
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 and Imagination Ray Tracing will 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, and 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 that bring virtual objects into the real world, while VR games can reach even higher levels 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 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 take a long time to render, but with Imagination Ray Tracing could enable physically-based models to be created in real-time, reducing time to market and improving client satisfaction.
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