Intel has confirmed its upcoming Xe GPU architecture will support hardware accelerated real-time ray-tracing. At the moment, Intel has only confirmed ray tracing will be supported in the initial wave of Xe GPUs designed for data centre usage, although this is a heavy indicator that the first consumer Intel graphics cards will support ray tracing technology when they launch next year.
“The Intel Xe architecture roadmap for data center optimized rendering includes ray tracing hardware acceleration support for the Intel Rendering Framework family of API’s and libraries,” confirmed Intel in a blog post.
Considering Intel’s direct competitor Nvidia has already led the charge with ray-tracing on its current crop of GeForce RTX GPUs, it stands to reason that Intel would want to match this feature set.
The focus for Intel’s initial chatter around ray-tracing was the potential benefits for the movie industry. Pixar was namechecked more than once, for example. 3D animations already utilise ray tracing but the task is performed on the CPU rather than the GPU. CPUs are much, much slower at ray tracing but render the image with 100% accuracy. Graphics cards are comparatively quick and dirty at the process, at the expense of ray tracing accuracy. From the way Intel is talking, it sounds as if Team Blue may have zeroed in on a close-to-100% accuracy GPU rendering method for ray tracing, which would prove a huge boon for the animation industry.
“Studios continue to reach for maximum realism with complex physics processing for cloth, fluids, hair and more, plus modeling the physics of light with ray tracing,” wrote Jim Jeffers, a senior principal engineer and senior director of Intel’s Advanced Rendering and Visualization team. “These algorithms benefit from mixed parallel and scalar computing while requiring ever-growing memory footprints. The best solutions will include a holistic platform design where computational tasks are distributed to the most appropriate processing resources.”
The big question now is whether this ray tracing technology trickles down to the consumer graphics cards. With Intel supporting it at a hardware-level for Xe, the odds are certainly high.
This would just leave AMD without confirmed ray tracing support, although there’s an expectation that the 7nm Navi architecture will support ray tracing on PC. Sony recently teased out details on the upcoming PlayStation 5, confirming a custom Navi GPU as well as what is probably fairly rudimentary ray tracing capabilities. This leads us to expect the Navi desktop chips will also follow suit.