Siggraph delivered a whole number of interesting new technologies this year. One that’s stayed under the radar though is AMD’s new OpenCL 2.0-based ray trace renderer.
AMD’s Takahiro Harada showed a demo of a prototype plug-in for Autodesk Maya 2015 that delivered advanced photorealistic renders in seconds thanks to four AMD FirePro W8100 GPUs packed inside a single high-end workstation. Change the camera angle in the viewport and the image starts to refine immediately. Official details are still thin on the ground, but the company did tell DEVELOP3D that the Maya plug in is a result of collaboration with Autodesk and that its ray trace rendering technology has other adopters.
If this all sounds quite familiar, that’s because Nvidia also has a GPU-accelerated ray trace renderer called Nvidia iray. The software works inside a number of 3D tools including 3ds Max, CATIA, Bunkspeed, as well as Maya and Maxon Cinema 4D through third-party plug-ins.
Nvidia’s ray tracer uses CUDA so is optimised for Nvidia GPUs (Quadro and Tesla). It runs on CPUs as well, but the performance is significantly lower.
AMD’s ray tracer uses OpenCL, the open compute standard. To encourage software developers to adopt the technology the company will no doubt be playing the open card. The software should also run well on all types of CPUs, GPUs and other processors, but we expect it will be optimised for AMD FirePro GPUs. AMD GPUs also have the added advantage that they can run graphics and compute tasks at the same time.
AMD is being tight lipped about exactly how or when this technology might see the light of day. One route would be for the company to make it open source, which could help it play catch up with Nvidia in the potentially lucrative world of GPU-accelerated ray tracing. We look forward to future developments.