Nvidia buys ray-tracing tech company RayScale

Graphics chipmaker acquiring small company that is a product of 10 years of research at the University of Utah.

Brooke Crothers Former CNET contributor
Brooke Crothers writes about mobile computer systems, including laptops, tablets, smartphones: how they define the computing experience and the hardware that makes them tick. He has served as an editor at large at CNET News and a contributing reporter to The New York Times' Bits and Technology sections. His interest in things small began when living in Tokyo in a very small apartment for a very long time.
Brooke Crothers
2 min read

Nvidia confirmed Friday that it has acquired RayScale, a small company that develops ray-tracing technology. Financial terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

Ray tracing has been mentioned frequently by Intel over the last six months. An Intel blog titled "Real Time Ray-Tracing: The End of Rasterization?" and later comments by Intel executives that the company is looking at doing ray tracing on its processors set the stage for debate on the viability of ray tracing in mainstream gaming.

PC graphics technology today uses rasterization. (A discussion of ray tracing vs. rasterization.)

Ray Tracing is a technique for rendering three-dimensional graphics with extremely complex light interactions, allowing the creation of transparent surfaces and shadows, for example, with stunning photorealistic results.

Ray tracing is a highly parallel process. And the GPU (graphics processing unit) provides high level of parallelism, according to Nvidia officials speaking at a conference on Thursday. The GPU has special function units that were desgined for doing graphics operations that are perfect for ray tracing, said Nvidia Chief Scientist David Kirk.

At the conference, Kirk and RayScale scientists discussed "GPU ray tracing." It's not clear how soon this technology would be used commercially by Nvidia.

RayScale, which provides interactive ray tracing and photo-realistic rendering solutions, says its technologies "dramatically increase the speed and realism at which graphics professionals can produce high quality three-dimensional computer graphics and photorealistic computer images."

RayScale is a product of the decade-long interactive ray-tracing research at the University of Utah, according to RayScale.

At the Intel Developer Forum in Shanghai in April, Senior Intel Vice President Patrick Gelsinger spelled out Intel's vision: essentially that ray tracing-based rendering technologies can be used in high-end gaming. "An intro of these capabilities into mainstream gaming we believe is possible in the future," Gelsinger said at that time.

Intel though has provided little proof beyond the running of some aspects of Quake IV (a relatively old game), for example, on an eight-core system.