Ray Tracing Can Render Realistic Shadows & Reflections, Can Also Improve AI & Collision Detection

Imagination’s Alex Voica explains how PowerVR Ray Tracing provides an efficient solution for video game graphics.

Posted By | On 15th, May. 2014 Under News | Follow This Author @GamingBoltTweet


powervr ray tracing

Image Credit: Anandtech.

Although there are a few games like Killzone Shadow Fall that use Ray Tracing, the technology is still pretty difficult to implement in video games. Not too long ago, we wrote about the potential of DirectX 12 in implementing ray tracing on the Xbox One and although theoretical scenarios exists not many retail games uses them.

GamingBolt was able to get in touch with Imagination who are working on ray tracing technology called as PowerVR Ray Tracing. Imagination is a leading technology company that deals in providing tools for graphics, video, communications and processing. Their 64-bit MIPS architecture based CPU were used in PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable.

Speaking to Alex Voica, who is the Marketing Communications team at Imagination, GamingBolt asked about the potential that PowerVR Ray Tracing holds in changing video game graphics.

Ray Tracing is mostly used in movies [like Avatar] but according to Alex there is no reason why it can’t be used in a video game. “Even though most people think ray tracing is only useful for non-real time photorealistic, physically accurate rendering for things like movies and adverts, there is absolutely no reason why it cannot be used in real-time renderers for games, especially since there is now efficient hardware support for accelerated ray tracing in the PowerVR Wizard GPU family.”

Alex then talks about the advantages of using Ray Tracing over raster techniques. “The main use for ray tracing in rendering is to accurately simulate effects such as hard and soft shadows, transparency, reflections or refractions. All these ray tracing-based effects are easy to implement, they do a better job approximating the physical light transport phenomena, and they avoid the artefacts of even the more sophisticated raster techniques. ”

“Additionally, they can be more efficient.  Ray traced shadows allow for per-pixel sampling decisions so there is much less waste in scenes with many shadow casting lights.  Moreover, ray tracing reflections are a big win over using dynamic reflection maps in scenes with many reflective objects.  This is because there is no need to perform a separate rendering pass for each object when you can trace rays for the pixels that are visible. ”

Finally Alex explains how Ray Tracing could actually help in other features like collision and AI. “While the primary application of ray tracing is rendering, there is nothing that prevents it from being used for other purposes. There are many applications that would benefit from the ability to know the entire layout of the scene and can use ray tracing independent of rendering; physics and collision detection or visibility detection in AI are two perfect examples. ”

“For example, characters in a first-person shooter can start to see and understand the 3D environment around them, using the ray tracing to process spatial understanding. This opens up a new world for realistic behavior when in-game agents can make decisions based on direct line of sight calculations that model what they are able to see.”

What do you think about Ray Tracing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

This is just a snippet from our interview with Imagination and we will have more in the coming weeks.


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