Nvidia’s secret war with Intel has evolved into a full scale arms race for the atomic bomb of graphics technology, ray tracing. Using its forum at SIGGRAPH, Nvidia was able to demonstrate an interactive ray tracing simulation using four of the company's next-generation Quadro GPUs. They were set in a Quadro Plex 2100 D4 Visual Computing System with an estimated street price of around $11,000. Not exactly your standard gaming rig, but it gets the point across. Either way, it appears as though Nvidia is finally taking a cue from Intel and is focusing at least some of its effort on developing hardware capable of making this technique a reality for everyday users. The demonstration featured linear scaling of an anti aliased Bugatti Veyron with over two-million polygons. It was run at a resolution of 1920x1080 (1080p) and chugged along at an impressive 30 FPS. The demonstration also featured image-based lighting paint shaders, reflections / refractions, and ray traced shadows. Industry insiders noted that the demo was an impressive undertaking since it was one of the first interactive demonstrations done using a GPU. Intel has demonstrated ray tracing using Quake 3 but was done using CPU power. Larrabee will be Intel’s counter in the consumer market, but it remains to be seen if the CPU style design will be as capable of pushing out polygons as Nvidia’s offerings. Gamers are no doubt hoping the new race to master ray tracing will accelerate its development, but I have a feeling we will be playing Duke Nukem Forever long before we see consumer based ray tracing solutions from either company. Though the important first steps are now well underway.
Want to read more about ray tracing? Read Maximum PC’s White Paper: Raster vs Rays .