3D Raytracing Chip Shown at CeBIT

A Classic Raytraced Scene

One of the first scenes I ever raytraced, back in 1986 or so…

Slashdot is running a story on a German group who is showing a 3D raytracing chip at CeBIT. This group has apparently constructed an FPGA based raytracing accelerator board, and is trying to convince companies like nVidia and ATI that they should adopt their techniques and built raytracing-based game accelerators.

I think their work is interesting, but I’m skeptical.

Raytracing is a very powerful and flexible technique, but it’s an awfully big hammer to crack nuts with. It does have one major advantage: the work that it performs is sublinear in the size of the input scene, rather than the linear time normally taken by object-order algorithms like the Z-buffer. But the constants are remarkably high, and the fact that naive raytracing tends to probe the scene in fairly arbitrary ways makes caching of only limited utility. In looking at the test images they produce, they appear to have lots of aliasing and lots of sharp shadows, which helps ease these problems significantly.

Ultimately, I remain interested, but unconvinced. I’ve seen at least one company start quickly out of the gate, only to be smacked by the cold hand of reality.

But hope springs eternal!

Gratuitous cool link from the thread: Castle Wolfenstein in 5K of Javascript.