Raytracing is a concept used in films, animations, architecture, and engineering. Recently gaming has taken a step towards bringing raytracing into video games.

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What is Raytracing?

The ray-tracing rendering engine maps the trajectory of the light rays that reach the viewport (read: your eye) by working backwards and casting rays—one for each pixel of your display– in a straight line from the viewport and capturing the point where the rays intersect with a digital surface.

The material properties of the object’s surface, such as the color, reflectiveness, and opacity, inform the color of the object and how it interacts with light rays. Because the rays propagate from your viewport, the lighting and shadows interact naturally when you change the viewing angle.

Ray tracing calculates how light rays would bounce off surfaces. It also determines where shadows would form, and whether light would reflect from another direction to illuminate that space.

As a result, ray-traced graphics can produce shadows with soft, smooth edges—especially when there’s more than one light source in the scene.

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Traditional computer graphics rely on a technique called rasterization, which converts 3D rendering into a 2D output for your monitor. Raterized graphics then rely on complex shaders to give the scene a sense of depth. With ray-traced graphics, the depth is an integral part of the scene and you don’t need a shader to bring it to life.

Microsoft’s DirectX Raytracing (DXR)

With the release of Microsoft’s Windows 10 October update a new method of graphics rendering was released in the form of an API. In September Nvidia released the first RTX graphics card that supports real-time ray tracing.

Microsoft first revealed DirectX Raytracing (DXR) in March, long before Nvidia revealed its Turing architecture with real-time tracing support, but developers weren’t shy to adopt the new API.

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Microsoft was already working with a handful of partners, including EA Frostbite, EA SEED, UL (Futuremark at the time), Unity, and Unreal Engine. The company also opened the doors for developers to request an experimental build of the API to get a head start with the new technology, and many signed up. Indeed, Microsoft said that “DXR is one of the fastest adopted features that [it has] released in recent years.”

AMD’s Answer

AMD’s David Wang said that, in his personal opinion, AMD definitely has a response for DirectX Raytracing (DXR). But the meantime, AMD is focusing on improving and promoting offline CG production environments centered around the graphics card maker’s Radeon ProRender rendering engine.

From a personal perspective, Wang believes that ray tracing won’t become a mainstream feature unless the technology is supported from the lowest tier to the highest tier of graphics cards. 

It’s unknown how and when AMD plans to implement hardware-based real-time ray tracing support into its Radeon gaming graphics cards. David Wang didn’t delve into the specifics. The bigger question for AMD aficionados is whether the company’s next-generation Navi graphics cards will come with ray tracing features. Unfortunately, there is no answer for that either. 

Further reading:

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  1. Yeah, so by implementing something to help pioneer a new era in compute/graphical fidelity its looked as to early as hardware doesn’t offer an answer from lowest tier to top?!? AMD’s answer is to sit by the sidelines and see which one is effectively either better and or adopted sooner..

    Kiss my ass AMD…. Maybe you should just work on one corporate giant at a time. Stick with intel as at least you have them on the run…

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