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Intel Puts Game Physics in the Cloud

By Technology Review

September 15, 2010

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Carl Sagan once said that to make an apple pie from scratch you must first create the universe. The same principle applies when it comes to making computer graphics truly look like the real world: you need to start with the basic physics of how light travels through air and objects, bounces, and diffracts.

Doing that—using a technique called ray tracing—makes for the ultimate in realistic computer graphics and gaming. Unfortunately it is so computationally intensive to do in real time that examples so far are limited to research labs.

That may be about to change. At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco Tuesday night Intel researchers based in Germany showed me a non-descript laptop running a ray traced version of first person shooter Wolfenstein. By shunting the physics calculations necessary into the cloud—onto servers connected to over a network—they have made it possible for even puny machines to offer truly real graphics. When the user interacts with the game their commands are sent back to the cloud which calculates how its simulated universe has to change and sends the resulting frames back.

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