PowerVR Graphics: the future has arrived

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Humble beginnings

When I joined Imagination Technologies in early 2008, I vividly remember our VP of Marketing, Tony King-Smith, talking about mobile 3D graphics moving towards photo-realism; rapidly catching up with high-end games consoles.

Looking at the software offerings supporting graphics hardware acceleration at the time, that must have seemed like crazy talk to a lot of people.

But we have come a long way…

As you might know, the first mobile product with 3D hardware acceleration was the Dell Axim X50V. The Axim X50V was sporting our PowerVR MBX core as early as December 2004.

Going backwards from there, I wonder what reception our CEO Hossein Yassaie received, when he around 2001 tried to sell the idea, that of course you would need powerful 3D capabilities in a mobile. Jetpacks and flying cars anyone?

In hindsight, his vision was spot on, and has since then gained massive momentum.

The first sightings

The first time I noticed people favourably comparing games on PowerVR platforms to consoles, was with Firemint’s Real Racing. Australian mobile veterans Firemint produced a stunning racing experience, and the games press was quick to heap on the praise.

I witnessed it running on both the original iPhone and the Nokia N95. Mind you, these were still PowerVR MBX platforms with none of all the floating point architecture and shader goodness PowerVR SGX does so well.

Pushing it

With the proliferation of the next generation of our PowerVR hardware, many, many other games came and further pushed the envelope. Still, knowing what the PowerVR SGX core is capable of, we knew that the upper performance ceiling was still some way off.

In 2009 we asked our long time friends from Digital Legends Entertainment to produce a set piece to demonstrate just how close to the console experience you can get on our current generation graphics hardware.

The resulting demo, called ExtremeBall, is chockfull of all the effects we take for granted on high-end games consoles: Radiosity lighting, water shader with refraction and reflections, bloom, advanced skin shaders, character animation with mesh deformation skinning and well over 1 million polygons per second. And barely breaking a sweat on an iPhone 3GS!

All together now

At the Develop conference in Brighton another mobile games veteran and PowerVR Insider, Michael Schade, CEO of Fishlabs, stated that, “within a year we will have mobile devices with rendering capabilities superior to the Xbox 360.” I was sitting in the audience, and inadvertently I thought, “has he seen our roadmap?”

Of course before that, the internet had been awash with videos of Epic Games’ Unreal3 engine demo running on an iPhone – and if you attended Apple’s WWDC in June, you were treated to even more stunning examples of just how close we are to closing the gap up to high-end consoles and PCs.

Lately it has been one glorious example after another:

Quakecon gave us John Carmack’s amazing demonstration of the Rage engine running on an iPhone. The status quo of PowerVR hardware was effectively summarized by the seminal 3D visionary of our time:

“I could kill anything on a previous generation console, like an Xbox or a PS2 or something, on the hardware that’s there. It’s not as powerful as the current generation, but it is not all that far off.” – John Carmack

On Wednesday we of course saw another stunning example in the Epic Citadel demo, developed by Epic Games.

PowerVR Graphics: the future has arrived

High-end console graphics on a mobile? Is it possible? Are there any doubters left?

Wait till you see what we are working on…

It has been an amazing journey for the PowerVR team; all the way from the SEGA Dreamcast days to today’s unbelievable graphics performance on mobile and embedded platforms. We are of course massively proud of our technology, and just as amazed as anybody else, at the experiences our many, many talented 3rd party developers create with it.

But we have just gotten started. The next-next-next generation graphics technologies we are working on at any point in time will be around 5-6 years away from shipping consumer products. Knowing how powerful the next PowerVR graphics technologies will be, we can confidently say that you haven’t seen anything yet! Very soon, we’ll see devices with our multi-core SGX XT, which can scale to almost any level of performance needed. All in the palm of your hand.

Ladies and gentlemen, the future has arrived. No jetpacks or flying cars, but you will get unbelievable games experiences on your mobile devices. Why should your mobile experience be inferior to your home experience?

Go forth and develop something amazing on the many, many PowerVR platforms. The graphics will not be the limiting factor!

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