Nvidia, a leading manufacturer of graphics processing units (GPUs), has introduced path tracing technology to Cyberpunk 2077, the two-year-old game developed by CD Projekt Red. The announcement was made through a technology preview called "Overdrive Mode." Path tracing is the next stage in creating realistic and immersive graphics for video games.
While ray tracing follows a single beam of light across a virtual scene, path tracing is more advanced, following the light as it bounces around an environment. This mimics how light behaves in the physical world and creates physically accurate soft shadows that make a scene look more realistic. Hollywood has used path tracing for decades, but it was too slow and expensive to implement in consumer gear.
Cyberpunk 2077 now joins Minecraft, Portal, and Quake II in supporting the technology. However, consumers will need the most powerful Nvidia RTX 40-series GPUs to enjoy Cyberpunk 2077's path tracing. Nvidia has also cautioned that those who do may run into performance issues.
Nvidia said two of its technologies, DLSS 3 and Shader Execution Reordering, were critical in developing the milestone. DLSS 3 uses AI-based image upscaling without performance loss, allowing games to render one-eighth of the pixels, then use AI and GeForce RTX Tensor Cores to reconstruct the rest, dramatically increasing frame rates while delivering crisp, high-quality images that rival native resolution. Shader Execution Reordering is more efficient at ray tracing, without compromising quality.
Nvidia's announcement also included the availability of a developer kit to pave the way for the next generation of bleeding-edge graphics. Nvidia aims to push the industry towards what will become increasingly possible for consumer graphics in the coming years.
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