The Vulkan API has been around for GPU acceleration of rasterized graphics for a number of years and the Vulkan 1.2 specification was launched on January 15th, 2020. But ray-traced graphics are not generally used personal computers. This development from Khronos creates a cross-vendor, cross-platform standard for ray tracing acceleration that is provided as an extension to Vulkan 1.2.
Ray tracing is a rendering technique that simulates how light rays intersect and interact with scene geometry, materials, and light sources to generate photorealistic imagery. Ray-traced graphics are among the most beautiful but most computationally-intensively produced images. For this reason, personal computers have for years relied on rasterization and block rendered graphics additional layers of processing for things like shading.
However, for computer generated imagery (CGI) in movies ray tracing is deployed as images do not need to be generated in real time and can be produced on server farms. As computational capabilities have advanced the prospect of hybridized rasterized and ray-traced graphics becomes tractable in real-time on personal computers. And ray tracing is beginning to be practical for real-time applications and games
The Vulkan Ray Tracing standard is focused on the desktop market for both real-time and offline rendering, Khronos said. The publishing of provisional extensions will allow the developer community to provide feedback before the specifications are finalized.
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