Unity and Nvidia ray trace photorealistic BMW in real-time at GDC 2019

The graphical standout moment of today’s Unity keynote at GDC was undoubtedly a BMW 8 Series Coupe, or rather two of them. Unity teamed up with Nvidia to show the thin line between reality and ray-traced graphics, with the two cars, one real and one rendered in real-time, being practically indistinguishable.

Users of Unity will get early access, starting today, to the new ray-tracing technology as part of the engine’s High Definition Render Pipeline (HDRP). With a “optimised preview solution” being made available in the latter half of the year, the company announced.

This is the second year that ray-tracing has made headlines at the conference, with Epic and Nvidia working together on real-time ray-traced demos last year: they had some very shiny Stormtroopers you might recall.

Though bringing this extra level of fidelity to games is a key aim, the addressable market for the immediate future (putting aside for now possible support in next-gen consoles) remains fairly small. Though developers and card manufacturers will nonetheless be keen to push the envelope of course, if only largely for marketing purposes.

Unity was also keen to highlight uses away from the core games space, such as design, engineering and marketing. And the BMW demo is a great example of the latter, with real-time ray-tracing potentially allowing for impressive showroom demos of options and colour combinations for potential buyers.

The NVIDIA RTX technology provide a key tool to creators of all kinds, allowing developers to make lifelike lighting changes in real-time that accurately reflect the way light behaves in the real world, allowing for accurate and fast iteration of their ideas.

“As part of our commitment to best-in-class visual fidelity graphics, we rolled out the preview of the HDRP last year – a highly-optimised, state-of-the-art raster-based solution capable of achieving stunning graphics in real-time on consumer hardware. We built HDRP with the future in mind and today we’re excited to announce that we are working with NVIDIA to adopt its RTX real-time ray tracing capabilities so we could bring this technology to all,” said Natalya Tatarchuk, VP of graphics at Unity. “Real-time ray tracing moves real-time graphics significantly closer to realism, opening the gates to global rendering effects never before possible in the real-time domain.”

“Until NVIDIA RTX, real-time ray tracing was perpetually on the horizon. Now millions of developers working in Unity can achieve amazing graphics with lightning speed,” said Bob Pette, VP of professional visualisation, Nvidia. “Unity’s plug-and-play resources for developers and popularity with brands large and small make its users a natural audience to take advantage of RTX ray tracing capabilities.”

Read all our GDC 2019 coverage here.

About Seth Barton

Seth Barton is the editor of MCV – which covers every aspect of the industry: development, publishing, marketing and much more. Before that Seth toiled in games retail at Electronics Boutique, studied film at university, published console and PC games for the BBC, and spent many years working in tech journalism. Living in South East London, he divides his little free time between board games, video games, beer and family. You can find him tweeting @sethbarton1.

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