Imagination Technologies Group plc, a leading designer of multimedia processing technologies, multimedia, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Caustic Graphics, a developer of real-time interactive ray tracing graphics technology for a cash consideration of $27 million.
Caustic has developed unique and patented hardware and software technologies to radically lower the cost and dramatically increase the efficiency and performance of ray tracing. This opens up the potential of highly photorealistic computer generated animated imagery to a host of new real-time applications and markets not possible previously. Caustic technology also allows the coexistence of traditional polygon based rendered objects (e.g. objects created using OpenGL ES) and life-like ray-traced elements in the same scene.
By acquiring Caustic, Imagination gains access to unique and patented technology which enables real-time ray traced and cinema quality 3D graphics to be implemented in a novel and highly cost-effective manner. According to the company, this capability can be efficiently added to the firm's successful PowerVR graphics processing units (GPUs).
While at present Imagination does not say whether it has plans to release ray tracing-enabled products under its own brand, or will license the technology to others, but said that Caustic technology operates fully in conjunction with and complements Imagination’s existing graphics processing IP. At the same time, the company notes that the acquisition provides access to professional and specialised markets that take advantage of Caustic’s much more efficient photo-realistic and cinema quality graphics solution. Typically providers of professional graphics processing solutions do not license IP, but rather acquire solutions, e.g., chips and software. The company also stated that the takeover will enable Imagination to extend its ecosystem to include very advanced graphics content and tool developers, and ultimately bring such content and tools to mainstream markets.
“The most exciting consumer technologies have always started in the professional industry until someone finds the right way to cost engineer and optimise power consumption of those technologies. We have a proven track record of disrupting markets by bringing new and high-end technologies to consumer and embedded products, such as our PowerVR graphics IP cores," said Hossein Yassaie, chief executive officer of Imagination.
The acquisition also enables Imagination to bring further disruptive technologies, as part of its roadmap, to its mainstream graphics markets across mobile, embedded, console and computing segments. In particular, it helps ensure Imagination stays at technological forefront, driving major innovations in the growing 3D graphics market.
Ray tracing is a technique for rendering three-dimensional graphics with complex and more natural lighting models to achieve cinema quality 3D and a level of near photographic realism that is impractical with traditional 3D graphics techniques. Because ray tracing requires both enormous computing power and also management of a very complex database, it has mostly been a tool for professional designers and animators using powerful and expensive computing systems that could take many seconds or even minutes or more often hours to create a single frame. As such it has been unsuitable until now for interactive consumer applications. Caustic’s unique patented hardware and software technology will lower radically the cost and increase the efficiency and performance of ray tracing.