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Reality check. What is NVIDIA RTX Technology? What is DirectX DXR? Here's what they can and cannot do

NVIDIA and its partners, as well as AAA-developers and game engine gurus like Epic Games, keep throwing their impressive demos at us at an accelerating rate.

These feature the recently announced real-time ray tracing tool-set of Microsoft DirectX 12 as well as the (claimed) performance benefits proposed by NVIDIA's proprietary RTX technology available in their Volta GPU lineup, which in theory should give the developers new tools for achieving never before seen realism in games and real-time visual applications.

There's a demo by the Epic team I found particularly impressive:

Looking at these beautiful images one can expect NVIDIA RTX and DirectX DXR to do more than they are actually capable of. Some might even think that the time has come when we can ray trace the whole scene in real-time and say good bye to the good old rasterization.

There's an excellent article available at PC Perspective you should definitely check out if you're interested in the current state of the technology and the relationship between Microsoft DirectX Raytracing and NVIDIA RTX, which without any explanation can be quite confusing, seeing how NVIDIA heavily focuses on the native hardware-accelerated tech which RTX is, whist Microsoft stresses out that DirecX DXR is an extension of an existing DX tool-set and compatible with all of the future certified DX12-capable graphics cards (since the world of computer graphics doesn't revolve solely around NVIDIA and its products, you know).

So here I am to quickly summarize what RTX and DXR are really capable of at the moment of writing and what they are good (and not so good) for.

NVIDIA Volta + Microsoft DX12 = Real-time ray-tracing. Finally?

Whenever I hear the term "real-time ray-tracing", I immediately think of some of the earlier RTRT experiments done by Ray Tracey and OTOY Brigade. You know, those impressive, yet noisy and not quite real-time demos with mirror-only reflections and lots a lots of convolving noisy rendered frames.

Like this one:

I wouldn't dream of seeing something actually ray-traced in real-time at 30fps without any noise in the upcoming 5-10 years. Little did I know, NVIDIA and Microsoft had the same idea and put their best minds to the task.

Results? Well...

Delivered 100%.

This demo, developed by EA (believe it or not) is running on NVIDIA's newest lineup of VOLTA GPUs, which means that VOLTA is also on the way! Yay! NVIDIA RTX tech sure looks promising.

Can you imagine what will happen to offline CUDA ray-tracers following this announcement? Hopefully their devs will be able to make this amazing tech a part of the rendering pipeline ASAP. Otherwise, C'est la vie: you've been REKT by a real-time ray-tracing solution.

Just kidding. We gotta test this thing out first and only then will be able to tell whether we've been led to believe in yet another fairy tale or that you need like 8 VOLTAS to run this demo which would be a let down.

Check out the announcement.