Siliconarts, a graphics technology startup from South Korea, has developed RayCore, a real-time ray tracing graphics processor. The technology can be integrated into various custom-build system-on-chips instead of current raster graphics processing solutions from ARM, Imagination Technologies, Vivante and others.
RayCore series 1000 is the world's first low-power real-time ray-tracing-enabled GPU IP [intellectual property] that is compatible with a wide variety of applications including smartphones, tablets, handheld game devices and smart TVs. This GPU IP has potential to provide cinema-quality 3D graphics in mobile devices by fully supporting fundamental ray-tracing functions such as reflection, refraction, transmission, shadow and global lighting. Siliconarts RayCore is based on patented MIMD (multiple instruction, multiple data-stream) architecture. The MIMD approach seems to be very efficient for highly-parallel ray-tracing algorithms.
The developer claims that RayCore series 1000 is specifically designed with ray-tracing in mind, thus features specific hardware, advanced memory caching system, special instructions and so on.
Unfortunately, performance of RayCore 1000 declared by its developer if far from high: the architecture is able to cast maximum 36 million rays per second per core (or 216 million rays/s using six cores) and from 14 million rays/s per core to 24 million rays/s in case of typical [yet undeclared] three-dimensional scenes. By contrast, Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 (released in Q2 2010) can cast up to 252 million rays/s in Nvidia's own test optimized for the company's Optix real-time ray-tracing engine [which means a that hand-optimized GPU ray-tracer could deliver ~30% higher results].
Naturally, RayCore can be more power-efficient than traditional GPUs in ray-tracing and may even be faster than mobile graphics adapters (PowerVR 6-series not included, it is indeed expected to be fast in general and capable of realtime ray-tracing in particular). The problem is that all the programs are written for traditional rasterization and there is simply no software for RayCore now. Naturally, ported software will barely work efficiently on a ray-tracing architecture.
RayCore is compatible with AMBA, AXI and PCI Express bus interfaces as well as Android 1.6 "Froyo" and Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" operating systems. Siliconarts claims that it has one client, which plans to implement the RayCore design in silicon.