Khronos publishes ray-traced graphics standard

Khronos publishes ray-traced graphics standard

Technology News |
By Peter Clarke

The Vulkan API has been around for GPU acceleration of rasterized graphics for a number of years and the Vulkan 1.2 specification was launched on January 15th, 2020. But ray-traced graphics are not generally used personal computers. This development from Khronos creates a cross-vendor, cross-platform standard for ray tracing acceleration that is provided as an extension to Vulkan 1.2.

Ray tracing is a rendering technique that simulates how light rays intersect and interact with scene geometry, materials, and light sources to generate photorealistic imagery. Ray-traced graphics are among the most beautiful but most computationally-intensively produced images. For this reason, personal computers have for years relied on rasterization and block rendered graphics additional layers of processing for things like shading.

However, for computer generated imagery (CGI) in movies ray tracing is deployed as images do not need to be generated in real time and can be produced on server farms. As computational capabilities have advanced the prospect of hybridized rasterized and ray-traced graphics becomes tractable in real-time on personal computers. And ray tracing is beginning to be practical for real-time applications and games

The Vulkan Ray Tracing standard is focused on the desktop market for both real-time and offline rendering, Khronos said. The publishing of provisional extensions will allow the developer community to provide feedback before the specifications are finalized.

Next: Make comments

Developers can comment through forums on Khronos but are also encouraged to share comments with their preferred hardware vendors. The specifications are available from the Khronos website through the Vulkan registry under the name VK_KHR_ray_tracing.

Vulkan Ray Tracing integrates a coherent ray tracing framework into the Vulkan API, enabling a flexible merging of rasterization and ray tracing acceleration. Vulkan Ray Tracing is designed to be hardware agnostic and so can be accelerated on both existing GPU compute and dedicated ray tracing cores if available.

“The overall architecture of Vulkan Ray Tracing will be familiar to users of existing proprietary ray tracing APIs, which enables straightforward porting of existing ray traced content, but this framework also introduces new functionality and implementation flexibility,” said Daniel Koch, senior graphics system software engineer at Nvidia and chair of the Vulkan Ray Tracing task group at Khronos, in a statement.

“Standardizing ray tracing in Vulkan is an important step towards making ray tracing available across a wide range of devices, as well as enabling developers to use this technology to its full advantage,” said Andrej Zdravkovic, senior vice president of software development at AMD, in a statement issued by Khronos.

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