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Hot days and Hot3D in New Orleans

New software APIs for ray-traced computer graphics make news in New Orleans just before Siggraph 2009 opens.

Two companies--respectively (I believe) the smallest and largest makers of graphics chips--announced on Sunday that they are developing new standard APIs (application programming interfaces) specifically for ray-traced computer graphics.

Caustic and Nvidia logos

Caustic Graphics introduced CausticGL, an API designed to leverage the best aspects of OpenGL, the most widely supported 3D API on the market. CausticGL ties in with Caustic's accelerator chips and boards, which the company says can deliver some 20X the ray-tracing performance of a conventional CPU.

Nvidia offered OptiX (pronounced like "optics"), a name designed to resonate with PhysX, the physics API acquired last year when , a company that was developing both the software API as well as a companion accelerator chip. (Nvidia doesn't have a Web page on OptiX yet; I'll update this post when one appears.) (The OptiX page is now online.)

James McCombe (founder and CTO of start-up Caustic Graphics) and Austin Robison (a research scientist with Nvidia) made their announcements in presentations during the Hot3D session I chaired at the High Performance Graphics conference in New Orleans over the weekend. The big Siggraph 2009 conference opens here this week.

The third presentation in the session was from Larry Seiler, a senior principal engineer with Intel, who described new details of how Intel is optimizing 3D-rendering software for its forthcoming Larrabee GPU.

I'll have more analysis of these announcements later, but I didn't want to miss this chance to break some significant industry news.