New ray-tracing GPU could result in more graphical prowess for future iDevices

As Apple’s long-standing graphics partner; any advancement from Imagination Technologies is worth noting for its probable inclusion in the next-generation of iDevices.

Apple's latest line-up; the iPhone 5S, iPad Air, and Retina iPad Mini – all feature the PowerVR G6430 in Apple’s A7 chip. At the iPhone 5S’ announcement, where the A7 was unveiled, the company had already boasted graphics 56x faster than the previous generation.

Now a successor graphics architecture, the PowerVR GR6500, has been announced with some admirable graphical prowess - particularly in regards to offering up the ability for “ray tracing”…

Ray tracing is an advanced technique for generating an image by tracing the path of light through pixels in an image plane and simulating the effects of its encounters with virtual objects. Most graphics currently use “rasterization” which uses an image to represent the various details and objects.

The benefits are particularly noticeable when in relation to reflections and shadows. Ray tracing is dynamic and will show accurate representations of these details based on where objects are situated within the generated world...

In the left-most image above it’s easy to see the use of images to simulate the shadow, reflection, and transparency effects. The right-most image uses a hybrid-approach which allows for the speed and relative-ease of rasterization -- but making use of ray-tracing where it has the most obvious benefits.

On the new GPU, known as ‘Wizard’, Imagination Technologies said: “For the better part of the last eight years, we have been busy developing unique hardware and software technologies to radically lower the cost and dramatically increase the efficiency and performance of ray tracing.

This work culminates at GDC 2014 with the official launch of the PowerVR Wizard GPU family, a range of IP processors that offer high-performance ray tracing, graphics and compute in a power envelope suitable for mobile and embedded use cases. This opens up the potential of highly photorealistic, computer generated imagery to a host of new real-time applications and markets not previously possible.”

Unfortunately it appears this Wizard won’t make a grand appearance until 2015 – meaning it will miss this year’s iDevice iterations. Fortunately, developers can get their hands-on with Imagination Technologies’ ray-tracing expertise much-earlier than this in the recently unveiled Unity 5 game engine -- which allows for the viewing of lighting changes in near real-time.

Are you excited by the prospect of ray-tracing coming to future iDevices?

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