Ray tracing has always been the “holy grail” of computer graphics, says Jason Ronald, head of program management for the gaming console Xbox.
The technique simulates a three-dimensional image by calculating each ray of light and promises stunning lighting effects with realistic reflections and shadows.
The method finds where it bounces, collects information about what those objects are, then uses it to lay down a pixel and compose a scene.
While the techniques have been around for a long time, “we just haven’t had processing power to deliver all of that in real time”, Mr Ronald says.
In Hollywood, special effects have used ray tracing for a decade. For an important sequence, computers could churn overnight for a single frame.
To do this for games in real time, you need to condense that to 1/60th of a second. Processing speed has now caught up to the task.