Intel Xe GPU Supports Ray Tracing Through Hardware

May 1, 2019
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Intel has just announced something pretty big at FMX in Germany: that their Xe GPU architecture will support hardware acceleration of Ray tracing. This is a pretty big deal because it puts this architecture on par with Turing as far as DXR goes and makes it far superior to solutions that rely on software or GPGPU acceleration (like the Pascal series). Ray tracing is a bleeding edge technology right now and pretty much in its infancy for the consumer market but has pretty huge implications in the data center segment as of now.

Intel Xe supports ray tracing

Ray tracing has deep reaching implications in the data center market. Ray tracing for big budget movies like Pixar films is done traditionally on CPUs because they are 100% accurate. Unfortunately however, they are also orders of magnitude slower. If a GPU solution exists that can offer a high level of accuracy (preferably 100%) at a GPU levels of speed then this would quickly revolutionize he brief of the announcement made at FMX is given below:

At FMX, Intel Graphics-related news will be disclosed that Intel:

  1. Xe architecture roadmap for data center optimized rendering includes ray tracing hardware acceleration support for the Intel® Rendering Framework family of API’s and libraries.
  2. Establishing the Intel® Graphics and Visualization Institutes of XeLLENCE (Intel® GVI) and has selected three founding institutions (University of Utah, University of Texas, Austin and University of Stuttgart) to participate based on their significant open research and open source contributions related to Intel Rendering Framework, large scale graphics and visualization.
  3. Building on the Intel Rendering Framework with the introduction of the Intel® Open Volume Kernel Library (set for release in Q3 2019) to enhance support for volume rendering – a critical capability for scientific visualization and high-end digital content creation.

 

Intel also talked about the rendering performance of its processors at FMX but that is something that is just an iterative improvement and not something as revolutionary as an Xe datacenter GPU with hardware acceleration for Ray tracing. Now considering the company was talking about PIXAR and the likes I am going to assume the ray tracing implementation features a very high and close to 100% rate of accuracy. I cannot imagine that it is 100% because if that were the case the CPU rendering industry would be completely and irrevocably disrupted as soon as the first Xe GPU lands.

A close to 100% ray tracing accuracy would allow budget film makers and significantly lower the threshold for high quality animations in the film industry. In fact, the average laymen would probably find it impossible to tell the difference between a CPU and a GPU ray traced image. Needless to say this is very exciting stuff and we can definitely expect this technology to be part of a consumer lineup of GPUs as well – whenever they land.

The full press release is given below:

Thinking ‘Exponential” with Intel® Xe architecture compute and graphics processors

Intel® architecture processors are the flexible, large memory capable, performance engines that drive the end-to-end creative process for visual effects and animated feature films. Today’s available GPUs have architecture challenges like memory size limitations and performance derived from years of honing for less sophisticated, “embarrassingly parallel” rasterized graphics use models. Studios continue to reach for maximum realism with complex physics processing for cloth, fluids, hair and more, plus modeling the physics of light with ray tracing. These algorithms benefit from mixed parallel and scalar computing while requiring ever growing memory footprints. The best solutions will include a holistic platform design where computational tasks are distributed to the most appropriate processing resources.

David Blythe’s recent blog provided initial insights into our exciting new Intel® Xe architecture currently under development. We are designing the Intel® Xe architecture as a cohesive acceleration companion to our continuing roadmap of Intel® Xeon® processors. As David closed his blog he mentioned, “We will look forward to sharing more details on the Intel® Xe architecture in the months ahead.” I’m pleased to share today that the Intel® Xe architecture roadmap for data center optimized rendering includes ray tracing hardware acceleration support for the Intel® Rendering Framework family of API’s and libraries.

Your existing investments in graphics and rendering solutions based on Intel® Rendering Framework open source products will seamlessly map to the exponential performance benefits of these flexible accelerated platforms.  Further, ray tracing as a general computational technique for a variety of simulation computation beyond rendering is rapidly growing. To put it succinctly in my own words “Leave no transistor behind” by creating a holistic software and compute environment ready to maximize your workflow for exponential benefits.

Partnership and community: announcing Intel Graphics and Visualization Institutes of XeLLENCE

In order to better ensure advanced graphics and visualization capabilities are broadly available to the professional rendering, scientific visualization and virtual design communities, I am thrilled to announce that Intel® is supporting the establishment of Intel® Graphics and Visualization Institutes of XeLLENCE (Intel® GVI). Three world class founding institutions have been selected:

– Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute (SCI) at University of Utah, supported by Dr. Chris Johnson.

– Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at University of Texas, Austin with Kitware, Inc, supported by Dr. Paul Navratil and Dr. Berk Geveci.

– Visualization Institute of the University of Stuttgart (VISUS), supported by Dr. Ing. E. h. Thomas Ertl and Dr. rer. nat. Guido Reina.

These institutions have already made significant open research and open source contributions related to Intel Rendering Framework, large scale graphics and visualization and we look forward to working with them to bring their energy and expertise to enable all creative and scientific communities to better utilize Intel® Xe architecture enabled platforms. I highly recommend you track the output of these institutes for the revolutionary ideas and solutions they have and will continue to deliver individually, collectively and openly for all to use and benefit from.

 “The Scientific Computing and Imaging (SCI) Institute, an international leader in visualization, imaging and scientific computing, is thrilled to be selected as a member in this elite founding group of Intel Graphics and Visualization Institutes of Xellence. As future Intel Xe architecture products are deployed to further augment visual computing, we look forward to ongoing research and open source contributions in collaboration with Intel and the Intel GVI centers. “

– Dr. Chris Johnson, Founding Director, Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, University of Utah

“At VISUS at University of Stuttgart, we constantly look for new ways of harnessing modern hardware to allow for interactive visualization of ever-growing data. With Intel Rendering Framework utilizing software defined visualization, we have been able to bring our approaches to HPC systems and maintain interactive performance while dramatically increasing visual fidelity through OSPRay ray tracing.  With our status as an Intel Graphics and Visualization Institute of Xellence, and the ability to utilize the Intel Xe architecture scaled across a variety of compute platforms, we will enable even more comprehensive approaches that reflect our overarching goal most closely: distributing computational loads over different resources that maximize each’s strengths; enabling discovery and user engagement though seamless interactivity and visual quality for the rapidly growing data set sizes of tomorrow. We are very excited and honored to be among the select few foundational Intel® GVI institutions poised to deliver impactful research contributions to graphics and visualization.”

– Dr.-Ing E. h.. Thomas Ertl, Head of the Visualization Research Center of the University of Stuttgart (VISUS), Vice Rector for Research and Advanced Graduate Education.

“TACC is honored to continue our partnership with Kitware and Intel to provide high-performance, high-fidelity visual analysis tools to scientists to help them better understand and better communicate their findings. Intel’s support for groundbreaking visual analysis work through the Intel Graphics and Visualization Institutes of Xellence Institutes will provide researchers more powerful analysis sooner in the discovery workflow. Through use of the Intel Rendering Framework and future Intel Xarchitecture products, the Intel GVI centers will demonstrate that powerful interactive analysis can be achieved independent of underlying rendering architecture.”

– Dr. Paul Navratil, Director of Visualization, Texas Advanced Computing Center.

“Kitware is excited to be an included partner in the Intel Graphics and Visualization Institute of Xellence, continuing our long collaboration with TACC and Intel for delivering compelling, state of the art, open source solutions for large scale, high fidelity graphics and visualization.   Through the joint efforts with the Intel IGVI, we look forward to enhancing our partner’s and user’s experience with applications like ParaView and the Visualization Toolkit (VTK) by including the capabilities of future Intel Xarchitecture products.”

– Berk Geveci, Sr. Director of Scientific Computing

Through collaboration with Intel® Graphics and Visualization Institutes of XeLLENCE and our industry partners who leverage Intel® Rendering Framework, Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors and, in the future, Intel® Xe architecture; Intel will continue to enable delivery of leadership solutions for high fidelity studio assets creation.

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