At GDC, Epic Games revealed an unprecedented demonstration alongside NVIDIA and ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm's division in charge of experimenting with experimenting with techniques for advancing digital trickery. The three companies worked together on a technique called real-time ray tracing and seem to have achieved it, demonstrating the technique on stage during Epic's "State of Unreal" session at the Game Developer's Conference. This represents the first time real-time ray tracing has been publicly displayed live.
So what is real-time ray tracing? Ray tracing is basically the technology that allows digital graphics to simulate light and shadow. Real-time ray tracing represents the next step beyond the tech we have now, allowing for multiple light sources to reflect and create shadows in real-time as either they move or the objects around them move. It essentially closes the gap between the tech between what digital animators can achieve in film and what game developers can create in video games.
Epic's demonstration ran on NVIDIA's tech housed in Volta GPUs while an iPad running ARKit used a virtual camera to get a close-up view of the smallest details. The assets themselves were created by Lucasfilm for use in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The demo showcased advances in textured area lights, ray-traced ambient occlusion, reflections, and shadows, and cinematic depth-of-field. Take a look at what that all looks like in action:
If that doesn't get you excited and you need something a little more gaming related, NVIDIA also worked with Remedy Entertainment, the developers behind Alan Wake, Quantum Break, and Max Payne, to create a tech demo showing what real-time ray tracing can do inside a video game environment. Remedy's demo could also be a small tease for their mysterious project that's currently only known by the codename "P7."
This technology is just on the horizon. It's hard not to get excited over what that could mean for games coming out in the next few years that take advantage of the ability to utilize real-time ray tracing. The one hitch might be that bitcoin mining has caused a huge uptick in GPU prices, so the cost of upgrading a PC graphics card could be prohibitive for those looking to upgrade to a device capable of handling this kind of graphical horsepower.
What do you think? Are you excited by these teasers?