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17. March 2020


Today at not-GDC, Khronos Group announced the release of Vulkan Ray Tracing, with initial support via beta drivers to NVidia cards.

Details from the Vulkan announcement:

Vulkan Ray Tracing consists of a number of Vulkan, SPIR-V, and GLSL extensions, some of which are optional. The primary VK_KHR_ray_tracing extension provides support for acceleration structure building and management, ray tracing shader stages and pipelines, and ray query intrinsics for all shader stages. VK_KHR_pipeline_library provides the ability to provide a set of shaders which can be efficiently linked into ray tracing pipelines. VK_KHR_deferred_host_operations enables intensive driver operations, including ray tracing pipeline compilation or CPU-based acceleration structure construction to be offloaded to application-managed CPU thread pools.

Vulkan Ray Tracing shaders are SPIR-V binaries which use two new extensions. The SPV_KHR_ray_tracing SPIR-V extension adds support for ray tracing shader stages and instructions; SPV_KHR_ray_query adds support for ray query shader instructions. Developers can generate those binaries in GLSL using two new GLSL extensions, GLSL_EXT_ray_tracing and GLSL_EXT_ray_query, which are supported in the open source glslang compiler. Engineers at Khronos member companies, including NVIDIA, have also added support for the SPIR-V extensions to DXC, Microsoft's open source HLSL compiler, enabling Vulkan Ray Tracing SPIR-V shaders to be authored in HLSL using the syntax defined by Microsoft, with minimal modifications.

Beta drivers are available from NVidia here although it should be cautioned, these drivers are very much for developers only!  You can read more about the announcement in this 20 page pdf presentation, as well as a more in-depth technical overview of raytracing support in this blog post.

You can learn more about raytracing support in Vulkan in the video below.

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