Earlier this week, Imagination Technologies announced the introduction of their PowerVR Wizard GPU, this GPU is wildly different from anything we’ve recently seen because it does Ray Tracing on dedicated hardware in the GPU. This hybrid rendering approach that Imagination’s new PowerVR Wizard GPU can accomplish is because it combines the company’s two different IP divisions together into one hybrid product. A few years ago, Imagination Technologies bought a company called Caustic that was making dedicated Ray Tracing graphics IP. This acquisition occurred in 2010, and in 2013 they finally started to ship professional add-in cards to professionals wanting a dedicated Ray Tracing card to accelerate their Ray Tracing from the traditional OpenCL compute model.
Back when we spoke with the guys from Caustic last year, they were already indicating to us that their ultimate goal was to get this Ray Tracing IP into Imagination’s mobile GPUs in order to help accelerate Ray Tracing. Little did we know that not less than a year later, they would already be announcing such a product. In our conversations with the people at Imagination Technologies, namely Alexandru Voica and Alex Kelley, we were able to understand that even though the PowerVR Wizard GPU does consume slightly more power than the vanilla PowerVR 6SeriesXT, it also saves a ton of power whenever doing any Ray Tracing tasks. This is because almost all Ray Tracing today is done through compute, meaning that it is mostly done through OpenCL, which is magnitudes less efficient than Imagination’s own dedicated Ray Tracing IP.
Alex Kelley, Imagination’s Director of Business Development showed us a live demo that they had of the new PowerVR Wizard at their booth at GDC 2014, and it was pretty impressive. Even though, I would have liked to see the power consumption as well as how it compares to an OpenCL implementation doing the same scene.
Additionally, we were shown Imagination’s Ray Tracing working in Unity’s Unity 5 Engine showing off interactive lightmaps. This demo showed how they were utilizing Imagination’s PowerVR Ray Tracing OpenRL Software library to do the interactive light mapping. This light mapping feature is already shipping in Unity’s Unity 5 Engine, which means that developers can already harness the power of both the GPU hardware and software made available by Imagination Technologies.
Overall, it was really good to see how quickly Imagination has managed to bring the Caustic IP into their PowerVR product line and it will be interesting to see how their licensees adopt it. I honestly believe it will be an interesting product to follow and to see how it ultimately ends up as a final product in SoCs shipping in tablets and smartphones in the near future. Until then, we will just have to applaud Imagination for having accelerated their pace of innovation beyond what many may have expected them to be capable of accomplishing.