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What is Ray Tracing and how does it improve graphics in video games?

febrero 7, 2020

Video game graphics have come a long way. However, player expectations from game graphics have grown exponentially. These days, gamers demand a level of visual fidelity that was unimaginable 10 years ago outside of dedicated 3D rendering companies. Yet for the most part, even the best games available today look as good as they do, using a series of rendering shortcuts that produce extremely convincing approximations of how we perceive the world around us, and no matter how good or precise those approximations are they arrive, there is still something missing. And this somehow the lack of realism.

Well, the gaming industry is ready to experience its biggest push in the form of Ray Tracing.

What is Ray Tracing?

Ray tracing a method to calculate 3D scenes that mimic the way we, as human beings, perceive the world around us or, more specifically, how the light in our world is perceived by us. The technique that has been around until 3D rendering itself, and works by processing beams of light from a source to its destination and how it bounces, spreads through, and occluded by, objects in a scene. The biggest advantage of Ray Tracing given by sufficient time and computing power, the resulting scenes can be indistinguishable from reality (or virtual reality).

How will Ray Tracing improve graphics in games?

The leaders of the graphic industry, AMD and Nvidia have announced their respective technologies and advancements in Ray Tracing at GDC 2018 by this year. During the GDC 2018 "State of Unreal" opening session, Epic Games, in collaboration with NVIDIA and ILMxLAB, provided the first public demonstration of real-time ray tracing in Unreal Engine. On the other hand, AMD said it is working with Microsoft to help define, refine and support the future of DirectX12 alongside Ray Tracing.

During the presentation of Nvidia, the three companies presented an experimental cinematic demo using the Star Wars characters of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi made with Unreal Engine 4. The demonstration supported by NVIDIA's RTX technology for GPU Volta, available through the Microsoft DirectX Ray Tracing API (DXR). In addition, an iPad with ARKit running has been used as a virtual camera to draw attention to fine details in close-up views.

"Real-time ray tracing has been the dream of the graphics and visualization industry for years," he says said Tony Tamasi, senior vice president of content and technology at NVIDIA. "With the use of NVIDIA RTX technology, Volta GPUs and Microsoft's new DXR API, the teams have been able to develop something truly amazing, which proves that the era of real-time ray tracing has finally arrived."

While AMD has not shown any evidence of the concept of their progress, it said they are also coordinating with Microsoft. Both companies are said to support Ray Tracing technology using the DXR API available to developers a few years later.

With such a high fidelity of graphics now available at the discretion of the developers, we can expect the next games to present more realistic graphics with an accurate representation of the lighting conditions and better sharpness. While this requires a greater load on the GPUs, Ray Tracing certainly promises to bridge the gap between reality and virtual reality.

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