Previously, all of the above was the last obtuse term to designate a complicated technology become the next leap in game graphics. Except that now the last one could be truly revolutionary. Ray Tracing reaches the status of buzzword at Electronic Entertainment Expo this week. Games announcements made by Microsoft, Nvidia and AMD at the big gaming show were littered with promises that their next releases will bring this miraculous technology to our homes.
"I think the paradigm is changing," said AJ Christensen, visualization programmer at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. "We are waiting for a lot of things to be able to do." The imagination far precedes technology and I think a lot of people are excited and waiting for it.
So, what makes ray tracing so potentially huge?Thu changing? Let's break it down.
What is ray tracing?
In simple terms, ray tracing is a technique that allows light in video games to behave as in real life. This works by simulating the current light rays, using an algorithm to trace the path that a beam of light would take in the physical world. Using this technique, game designers can make virtual light rays seem to bounce off objects, project realistic shadows, and create realistic reflections.
Conceptualized for the first time in 1969, ray tracing technology has been used for years to simulate realistic lighting and shadows in the film industry. But even today, the technology requires considerable computing power.
"A game must run 60 frames per second, or 120 frames per second, so it must calculate every frame in 16 milliseconds," said Tony Tamasi, vice president of technical marketing at Nvidia, a graphics card developer. "While a typical movie image is pre-displayed, it can take eight, 12 or 24 hours to render a single image."
This enthusiasm around ray tracing comes just as hardware games at home are about to be able to deal with lighting effects in real time. Graphics chips for the next generation of gaming computers and video game consoles should be powerful enough to allow the powerful rendering necessary for the production of ray tracing scenes on the fly. When this happens, it could lead to a tectonic change in the visuals in the games.
How is it different from what we have seen before?
If you look at how light works in video games, you may feel that all the elements are present: reflections, shadows, flower, lens. But all that is right sophisticated trickery. Programmers can pre-render light effects (even with some ray tracing), but these are integrated into the scene, which consists essentially of packed animations that always run in the same way. These effects may seem quite convincing, but they are not dynamic.
"The problem is that it's completely static," says Tamasi. "Unless you render rendering in real time, the lighting is going to be wrong."
If the player modifies the environment, for example by blowing a hole through a wall, the light of the scene will not be planned. With real-time ray tracing, the light would adjust automatically.
How does ray tracing work?
In real life, light comes to you. Waves composed of innumerable small photons spring from a source of light, bounce across a variety of surfaces, then hit you straight in the eye. Your brain then interprets all these different rays of light as a complete picture.
The ray tracing works almost the same way, except that everything goes in the opposite direction. Inside the software, the light in the form of a ray starts at the viewer (from the lens of the camera) and moves to the outside, tracing the path that bounces on multiple objects, sometimes even taking their color and reflection properties, until the software determines the appropriate light. source (s) that may affect that particular department. This vision simulation technique backward is much more efficient for a computer to manage than trying to draw the rays of the source of light. After all, the only bright paths to render are those that correspond to the user's field of view. It takes much less computing power to display what is in front of you than to render the rays emitted by all the light sources of a scene.
Yet, that does not mean that it is easy. "Thousands of billions of photons enter your eye every second," says Christensen of the NCSA. "It's way more than just the number of calculations that a computer can make to the second … so there's a lot of optimization and efficiency, and this hacking must occur for something to be truly realistic. "
Rather than trying to map each ray of light, the solution for Nvidia developers is to search only some of the most important rays, then use machine learning algorithms to fill the gaps. gaps and smooth them out. This is a process called "denoising".
"Rather than shooting hundreds or thousands of rays per pixel, we'll shoot a few or maybe a few dozen," says Tamasi. "So we use different classes of denoisers to assemble the final image."
When does it come?
Real-time ray tracing is already here. If you have a PC capable of handling it, it is available in some current games such as Battlefield V, Exodus Metroand Shadow of the Tomb Raider, as well as upcoming titles like Cyberpunk 2077 and Wolfenstein: young blood.
Nvidia introduced ray tracing capabilities last year, with the release of its RTX graphics card So, your PC would need one of these to take full advantage of the technology. Current consoles, such as Xbox One and Playstation 4, do not have the hardware to remove it.
For those of us who do not want or can not shell out between $ 350 and $ 1500 for a graphics card, ray tracing will also be supported by the next generation of gaming consoles, especially the Playstation 5 and the mysterious name of Microsoft, successor to Xbox One, Project Scarlett.
The potential could be exciting, but it will take a few more years before the technology becomes standard. The ray throwing in real time is still in adolescence and turned out to be a little wayward. And as computer hardware improves, developers and designers will have to follow.
"It's a new tool in the toolbox," says Tamasi. "We need to learn how to use this new tool properly, and people will develop a new class of techniques."
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