IDF 2010: Intel shows off cloud-based ray tracing for games

Subject: Graphics Cards | September 13, 2010 - 02:00 AM |

This evening at an IDF "Day Zero" event, Intel showed off some of the new technologies that will be on display at the show this week.  One that I found particularly interesting was a live demo of a cloud-based ray tracing solution for games.  To quote from Intel:

"This demo showed how future gaming experiences on mobile devices could be enhanced by Intel-based servers in the cloud."

If the idea sounds familiar it is because OnLive and OTOY have been talking about this for years - render 3D images on a high performance cloud environment and send only the resulting images or video to the client.  This allows the client to be light weight in terms of computing power and could be anything from a desktop computer, set top box, notebook or even a mobile device like a phone. 

In this particular demonstration Intel was using the work of Daniel Pohl and other software engineers that had been developing ray tracing versions of various gaming engines.  (In fact, Daniel has written a couple of articles of PC Perspective over the years on software ray tracing work he has done since 2006.)  The original target of this work was Larrabee, the one-time discrete graphics card that Intel had been working for years but was recently shelved. 

Wolfenstein was shown with a real-time ray tracing engine in this case with only camera-based interaction; no real "gaming" was being done.  It definitely was a visual improvement over what we had seen in the past but the real interesting part here for me was the server-based hardware running it.

Intel said the demonstration used a set of four servers, each with a "Knight's Ferry" card, a Many Integrated Core (MIC) architecture product that was announced in May as the somewhat spiritual successor to the Larrabee project.  I was told that each card consisted of 32 cores for a total of 128 of them at work on this particular project.  Obviously that would be way too much processing horsepower to dedicate in a per-user environment but Intel is using the Knight's Ferry cards to simulate a future cloud resource. 

As I mentioned above, with services like OnLive already out and available for users to subscribe to, the idea of having server-based render farms for consumer gaming isn't revolutionary.  Intel is simply hoping that by showcasing another use for the Knight's Ferry research and development cards that revolutionary software teams will find other uses for this kind of processing technology down the road. 

You can get more information on this project at

February 20, 2012 | 10:56 PM - Posted by Christine Deverell (not verified)

Illustrators all across the world would definitely be happy if this technology was adopted as the industry standard, given that then they would not have to worry about having too much detail in their graphics that would make the game more resource intensive for the clients.

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