Business as usual for Caustic Graphics

Real time ray tracing isn’t far away

IMAGINTATION TECHNOLOGIES PURCHASE of Caustic Graphics was somewhat perplexing at first, but after a chat earlier today with David Harold, Imagination Technologies Director of PR, things have become a lot clearer. Although Imagination Technologies has a long term plan of implementing the Caustic Graphics technology into its range of PowerVR graphics IP cores sometime in the future, for now it’s business as usual for Caustic Graphics.

So what does this mean? Well, Caustic Graphics is a couple of months or so from launching its first retail ready product. That means an add-in card using custom designed hardware, although as to exactly what this will be we weren’t told. Caustic Graphics already has a hardware solution, but it’s based on FPGA’s which are expensive and not nearly as efficient as the custom silicon that the retail cards will use.

As to whom the target market is, well, we don’t know for sure as yet, but presumable it’ll be anyone working with ray tracing. We’d presume there’ll be some limitations as to what software will work with the Caustic Graphics card, but again, we’ll just have to wait and see. If the hardware solution delivers what it has promised then we’re looking at a huge shift in the PC graphics market, as we’ll finally be free of the polygon limiting the creativity of real time 3D content.

The potential downside of this is that both AMD and Nvidia will lose market share, although as this is likely to be a highly specialized solution to start with, this isn’t likely to happen overnight. This is of course not even taking into account the so far unknown cost of the Caustic Graphics hardware solution. That said, high-end graphics card do little to nothing in a  system that does ray tracing and as such it might be Intel that ends up losing out on sales in the multi-core, multi-socket PC workstation market space as the card from Caustic Graphics might very well end up replacing several of the additional CPU cores that have been used to reduce the rendering time.

As for the future, well, it really comes down to how well Imagination Technologies and Caustic Graphics supports and promotes the technology. If the early demos that Caustic Graphics put out are anything to go by, this really is truly revolutionizing technology in what it’s a high growth market, least not for the latest Hollywood blockbusters, of which most are relying heavily on CGI effects of which many are done by using ray tracing technology. This is also true for almost all animated movies these days and if one of the Caustic Graphics hardware solutions can replace an entire multi-core CPU or more, there might be potential savings not only in power (this is pure speculation at this time, as we don’t know how much power the cards will draw) but also in space, especially if it’s possible to add multiple cards to one system.

As for future technologies from Imagination Technologies based on the Caustic Graphics ray tracing technology, the company is hoping to be able to bring an IP solution for SoC’s in the future that will be capable of real time ray tracing on pocketable devices. We were told that what Caustic Graphics have been developing is meant to integrate quite well with Imagination Technologies tile based PowerVR graphics technology, although we weren’t given any specifics as to how or why. Believe it or not, but Imagination Technologies are back in the PC graphics business although in a very roundabout way and is definitely not doing a mainstream graphics card solution for now.S|A

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