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Microsoft, AMD and Nvidia are all working on new Ray Tracing GPU tech

The Game Developer Conference (GDC) kicked off this week and we've already had a couple of major announcements. It looks like this year, DirectX 12 is back in the spotlight, with the likes of Nvidia, AMD and Microsoft all working to support Ray Tracing technology. This is a technique commonly used in film to generate a visual scene from all angles based on how light would react to objects and materials within it. It creates highly realistic scenes and lighting details, but also takes up a lot of processing power, so it has typically been left out of video games. However, starting this year, the gaming world will no longer be left out.

We'll start things off with Microsoft's announcement, as DirectX 12 is the central hub for all of this. At GDC, Microsoft announced that DXR, a raytracing API, will be baked into DirectX and will be supported by several major game engines. This includes the Unreal Engine, Unity, Frostbite, and algorithmic. Developers at EA, Remedy and 4A Games are already working with the DirectX raytracing API for several upcoming games. This is mainly being described as a ‘future technology' however, so it could be a while before we see a video game fully support it.

You can see a short demo of the technology from Remedy Entertainment in the video below:

AMD was quick to send off emails to let everyone know that it is “closely collaborating” with Microsoft on DirectX raytracing. AMD also has a bunch of panels lined up for GDC, one of which will focus on raytracing, how it works, and the effect it will have on games going forward.

Nvidia is also working on raytracing GPU technology, though Nvidia's solution is a little more baked in. While Microsoft has announced DirectX Raytracing (DXR), Nvidia has taken things a step further and announced RTX, its own raytracing technology. Nvidia RTX technology aims to bring “real-time movie quality rendering to game developers” and is currently highly optimised for the Volta graphics architecture. RTX is also being working into the Nvidia GameWorks package for developers to make use of.

Nvidia describes RTX as a big leap for video game graphics. Much like AMD, Nvidia has also “partnered closely with Microsoft” to enable full RTX support for applications using the DXR API. During Nvidia's panel on RTX, one of Remedy's developers explained that the studio has been working with RTX already, which enabled new lighting, reflection and ambient occlusion techniques with significantly better visual fidelity.

Up to this point, developers have been relying on ‘rasterisation' techniques to render lighting and shadows for scenes. This was due to faster rendering and higher frame rates. Now it seems that the folks at Nvidia, Microsoft and AMD have figured out a way to bring true raytracing techniques to video games in a more optimised form.

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KitGuru Says: Raytracing techniques seem to be the big take away from day one of GDC. It will certainly be interesting to see what this brings in the future, though it could be a while before we see these techniques fully implemented. 

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