Future iPhones May Offer More Realistic Lighting and Shadows with New Ray-Tracing GPU

Apple's graphics partner for iOS devices, Imagination Technologies, has announced a new version of its PowerVR graphics architecture that includes ray-tracing capabilities. Apple currently uses the PowerVR G6430 graphics package from Imagination in its latest A7 chip that powers the iPhone 5s, iPad Air, and Retina iPad mini, so Imagination's new technology is likely of interest to Apple.

imagination_ray_tracing
Offering more realistic lighting and shadows, the new GPU design known as "Wizard" marks a significant leap forward by bringing ray tracing to mobile devices.

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.

AnandTech has more on the developments, which are an extension of the Series6XT graphics profiled last month, noting that Imagination is combining ray tracing with traditional rasterized graphics.

Rasterization is still the fastest and most effective way to implement a number of real-time rendering steps – rasterization has been called the ultimate cheat in graphics, and over the years hardware and software developers have gotten very, very good at this cheating – so the idea is to continue to use rasterization where it makes sense, and then implementing ray tracing effects on top of scene rasterization when they are called for. The combination of the two forming a hybrid model that maintains the benefits of rasterization while including the benefits of ray tracing.

imagination_rasterizedimagination_hybrid

Comparison of traditional rasterized (top) and hybrid rasterized/ray-traced (bottom) scenes

Alongside the upcoming mobile GPU designs that will support ray tracing, Imagination's expertise in ray tracing will include an impact on game developers in the nearer term with yesterday's unveiling of version 5 of the popular Unity game engine. Unity 5 will leverage Imagination's ray-tracing technology to allow game developers to view lighting changes in near real time, accelerating the development process.

Apple has not been explicitly mentioned as interested in taking advantage of the new Wizard GPU designs, but the company has used Imagination GPUs in all of its iOS devices and is a minority investor in Imagination, holding an approximately 10 percent stake in the company.

As for timing, it seems that Wizard GPUs will not be making their way into products until 2015, indicating that they are not candidates for the iPhone 6, which is expected to debut later this year. Future iPhone models could, however, incorporate Wizard GPUs for more realistic graphics, and it appears that Imagination is banking on this technology becoming the standard for mobile GPUs in the future.

Popular Stories

6chatgpt mac app

5 Reasons to Use OpenAI's ChatGPT App for Mac

Thursday May 23, 2024 6:07 am PDT by
On May 13, OpenAI during its Spring Update announced that it would be releasing a desktop ChatGPT app for the Mac in the "coming weeks," and said that ahead of a wider launch it had started rolling out the app to some ChatGPT Plus subscribers. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. After testing the app for a few days, we thought it was worth sharing some reasons why...
new best buy blue

Best Buy's Memorial Day Sale Has Record Low Prices on iPads, MacBooks, and Much More

Friday May 24, 2024 7:12 am PDT by
Best Buy today kicked off its Memorial Day weekend sale, and it has some of the best prices we've tracked in weeks on iPads and MacBooks. Specifically, you'll find record low prices on the 5th generation iPad Air, iPad mini 6, M2 MacBook Air, and M3 MacBook Pro. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Best Buy. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small payment,...
macOS 15 Feature

macOS 15 System Settings to Get Design Overhaul

Thursday May 23, 2024 12:51 pm PDT by
With the macOS 15 update that is set to debut at WWDC in June, Apple plans to rearrange "menus and app UIs," according to a report from AppleInsider. The System Settings app, which was last updated with macOS Ventura, will get one of the biggest updates. With macOS Ventura, Apple renamed the System Preferences app to System Settings, introducing a design similar to the Settings app on the...
iPhone 16 Pro Max Generic Feature 2

5 Biggest Changes Rumored for iPhone 16 Pro Max

Tuesday May 21, 2024 7:29 am PDT by
Given Apple's rumored plan to add an all-new high-end tier to its iPhone 17 series in 2025, this could be the year for Apple to bring its boldest "Pro Max" model to the table — the kind of iPhone 16 upgrade that stands tall above its siblings, both figuratively and literally. If you have been holding out for the iPhone 16 Pro Max, here are five of the biggest changes rumored to be coming...

Top Rated Comments

roow110 Avatar
133 months ago
Am I the only one who prefers the rasterized-only image in the example?
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
delnerdo Avatar
133 months ago
Think of how it will make a snappier Safari!
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
needfx Avatar
133 months ago
future iphones may offer reality distortion fields
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
cobbyco Avatar
133 months ago
Think of how it will make a snappier Safari!

Every time someone posts this, a kitten gets hit by a car.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
xionxiox Avatar
133 months ago
Am I the only one who prefers the rasterized-only image in the example?

yes
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
spyguy10709 Avatar
133 months ago
Frankly the iPhone and iPad have the most impressive graphics performance of any mobile device - look at top tier games on the iPhone 5S compared to its counterparts... Not even close.

A bump like this would be killer for anyone who loves gaming on iOS.

Also - appleTV gaming anyone?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)