NVIDIA Shows Interactive Ray Tracing on GPUs
To date, a number of real time ray tracing projects have been shown on the PC. Intel's Daniel Pohl, for example, has showcased customized versions of Quake 3 and Quake 4 running on Intel hardware that use ray tracing with impressive results and ATI has recently shown ray tracing demos running on Radeon HD 4800 series hardware at their Cinema 2.0 event. But today, it's NVIDIA's turn.
During SIGGRAPH 2008 in Los Angeles NVIDIA is demonstrating a fully interactive GPU-based ray tracer. The demo is based purely on NVIDIA GPU technology, and according to NVIDIA the ray tracer shows linear scaling while rendering a complex, two-million polygon, anti-aliased automotive styling application. Screenshots from the actual demo are shown here.
At three bounces, performance is demonstrated at up to 30 frames per second (fps) at HD resolutions of 1920x1080 for an image-based lighting paint shader, ray traced shadows, reflections and refractions running on four next-generation Quadro GPUs in an NVIDIA Quadro Plex 2100 D4 Visual Computing System (VCS). Some of these screenshots, however, were taken with the resolution increased all the way up to 2560x1600. Frame rates at that resolution weren't available though.
If we can speculate for a bit here, let's assume that the next-gen Quadros NVIDIA is using for the demo are based on the company's GTX 200 series GPU architecture. That means, potentially, a 3-way GeForce GTX 280 SLI configuration may offer approximately 75% of the performance of Quadro Plex 2100 D4 VCS being used in the demo. If history is an indicator, sometime within the next 18 months or so, NVIDIA is likely to double the performance of their current GPUs. So, by sometime next year or maybe in the early part of 2010, we'll likely have the necessary horsepower in a high-end gaming PC to handle some level of real-time ray tracing with adequate performance for fluid motion. Over the next few months to a year, expect to hear much more on this front.