Algorithms, Voxels, and Octrees - Oh my indeed!

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards | December 2, 2011 - 12:45 AM |
Tagged: nvidia

Even back around 2005 when the rush was still getting higher and higher resolutions to fill the finally high-resolution TVs, I always assumed that the next trail blazed in the graphics war would be lighting. Lighting is a complicated process which we are all very accustomed to it being done perfectly due to our living in the real world. Technologies such as Unreal Lightmass, PureLight, and Autodesk Beast have created more realistic lighting profiles that account for multiple bounces but cannot change in games like Mirror’s Edge. Battlefield 3, thanks to Geomerics, is one of the first games to take this problem on in semi real time such that if you alter a light the indirect lighting changes with it. The advancement does not stop there according to a recent NVIDIA blog which details research into better real time lighting.

That hand has got to be illegal in all 50 states.

P.S. -- For a 3d Technology company, just 480p Youtube -- really?

While the blog is quite vague in how the technology actually is producing its results, those results appear to be quite spectacular in quality. Unfortunately, while the quality looks amazing for being rendered at 25-70 FPS, there is no mention of what system is required to achieve those 25-70 FPS. Back to the vagueness: the demonstration is apparently not being performed upon triangular meshes relying on voxels instead. According to their explanation, their second lighting bounce is approximated to a single cone rather than multiple rays. If I understand their cone method enough, this approximation is incapable by design of expanding to third bounces and beyond; it appears to be a simplification that falls out of restricting yourself to just two lighting bounces in a voxel environment.

Regardless of when and how it will influence our technology; does the demonstration excite you for technologies to come? Place your predictions in the comments.

Source: NVIDIA Blogs
December 2, 2011 | 05:53 AM - Posted by Euclideon & Unlimited Detail (not verified)

Hi, One of the future technologies that I think will revolutionize the game industry will come from this guys: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=00gAbgBu8R4
and a second video, more detailed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVB1ayT6Fdc
watch carefully, it's not even hardware accelerated yet... imagine what power it could have with hardware acceleration in the future...

December 2, 2011 | 11:15 AM - Posted by Scott Michaud

Actually point-cloud is a very similar technology to the voxels being used in the NVIDIA article.

As for Euclideon, I don't know -- he sounds WAY too buzz-wordy ("It's a search algorithm, like Google") and WAY too "these are the big mean people who don't want you to have unlimited detail"y to be genuine. He has to be compensating for something.

There's a LOT more to making a beautiful game than just polygon (or in his case, geometry) count... unlike he's been saying. People have been harassing him about animations -- I think people might be looking in the wrong place. Shaders maybe? Lighting?

December 2, 2011 | 06:55 PM - Posted by cortexodus

"the demonstration is apparently not being performed upon triangular meshes relying on voxels instead"

I disagree. I am no authority on this subject but, it appears the objects are rendered with triangles but exist within a voxel octree that is used to calculate the lighting on those objects. You can see this most clearly when the hand is being moved around within the dynamic octree frame and also when it's shown with a green haze. The haze lightly illustrates the cubes that the lighting model is "contained" within. It actually looks like a really novel approach to "faking" ray casting maybe.

December 2, 2011 | 08:45 PM - Posted by MrBlack2 (not verified)

LOL- a hand can be one creepy ass monster!

December 3, 2011 | 08:23 AM - Posted by Wu Li (not verified)

Many people seem to have this idea that voxels are some far off future technology, but they're already used in some games. All this demo shows is that we can expect to see them used more in the near future. In particular people are eagerly awaiting the next generation consoles with gpu compute functions that will enable more comprehensive use of the technology.

Its not voxels verses other technologies either, but just another tool in the tool chest that can be used in a variety of combinations with all the other tools at programmers' disposal.

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