PowerVR Ray Tracing

Capturing the power of light

PowerVR Ray Tracing is a revolutionary 3D graphics technology that mimics how light behaves in the real world to create visuals with astonishing realism, while also enabling developers and content creators to simplify their workflow.

PowerVR Ray Tracing is a revolutionary 3D graphics technology that mimics how light behaves in the real world to create visuals with astonishing realism.

What is Ray Tracing?

Since the early days of 3D, traditional rendering has been performed using rasterisation with objects built up using a mesh of triangles and are then ‘shaded’ to create their on-screen look. Ray tracing is different. It mimics how light works in the real world, where photons are emitted from a light source and bounce around the scene until they reach the eye of the viewer. As the light interacts with objects it is blocked, reflected, or refracted by the objects along the way, depending on their material properties, creating shadows and altering each object looks.

More efficient implementations of ray tracing reverse this process by sending out rays from the viewer (the screen) into the scene, onto objects and from there to the light source(s). This realistic, and more elegant approach to lighting scenes helps delivers 3D graphics with far greater realism, aiding games and visual applications, while simplifying the process for content developers.

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PowerVR Ray Tracing – our unique approach

Various ray tracing techniques have been used for many years to create incredibly realistic lighting effects in movies, advertising and interior design, but those techniques were far too computationally intensive to be used in real-time applications. Our architecture, containing patented specialist hardware blocks, enables either faster full ray tracing, or an efficient hybrid rendering approach that combines traditional rasterisation techniques together with ray tracing. Through this, Imagination has created a solution that offers an optimal balance between image quality and performance.

Our patented ray tracing architecture draws on our long history of delivering leading-edge technology in a highly power efficient manner, making it ideal for a wide range of use cases.Developers can access our ray tracing technology through open standards using extensions to OpenGL ES™ and Vulkan®, rather than the closed standards of competitors. 

Mobile

Ray tracing has just started to be used to enhance games and applications on high-powered desktop PCs and will feature in next generation games consoles.

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Consumers will soon start to expect similar levels of graphics quality in their portable devices – historically mobile has tracked games devices, with current tablets as capable as last generation games consoles. Our ‘mobile-first’ approach to ray tracing makes it an ideal fit for battery-constrained devices, where it can be used to literally bring desktop-level graphical quality into the hands of consumers – just as we have been doing for nearly 15 years.

Aside from games, ray tracing can be used to enhance a variety of mobile applications, such as augmented reality apps that bring virtual objects into the real world, while taking into account the actual light sources seen by the camera.

Gaming

The highly efficient nature of PowerVR Ray Tracing makes it an ideal choice to deliver cinematic quality visuals to gaming consoles.

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Our low power consumption design will ensure that manufacturers can deliver the next-gen visuals consumers demand while maintaining low power envelopes, thus helping to ensure the robustness demanded by high-volume gaming production.

Cloud-based gaming is also widely predicted to supplement local hardware. However, power consumption costs and heat management are key challenges faced by server farms. Ray tracing is highly beneficial to delivering widely scalable server-farm-based gaming. As every player in a map is occupying the same ‘world’ it can be updated once and then sent to every player on the server, with ray tracing used to generate each player’s unique view – a much more efficient process than rasterisation, enabling a server architecture that offers lowers power consumption while also delivering stunning visual effects quality.

Automotive

In-vehicle displays are becoming increasingly sophisticated and ray tracing will enable it to be taken to another level.

Ray tracing could be used to realistically mimic classic car dials while delivering the flexibility of digital dashboards.

Ray tracing enables distorted or curved rendering in a single pass to precisely map the HUD (head-up display) that can replace dashboards onto the windscreen. Also, the distortion correction process required by 360° surround view systems in cars is easier and lower latency using ray tracing.

Visualisation

Many markets rely on pre-visualisation applications to create highly realistic models for virtual prototyping.

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Industries such as architecture, interior design, property development and product design leverage the power of ray tracing to generate realistic models for virtual prototyping. Traditionally, these take a long time to render on CPUs, but with hardware powered by PowerVR Ray Tracing physically-based models could be created in real time, reducing time to market and greatly improving client satisfaction.