December 2013 marked the start of a new chapter for Geomerics. The firm was acquired by ARM, the Cambridge-based designer of mobile CPUs and GPUs.
But what lays behind this purchase and what are the implications for developers?
“We were attracted to Geomerics for a number of reasons but foremost was Enlighten, Geomerics’ award-winning technology for real-time lighting” says ARM’s VP of partner marketing Dennis Laudick.
Enlighten has already been deployed in a number of high-profile titles, but with Battlefield 4 and Need for Speed: Rivals using the tech on Xbox One and PS4, Geomerics looks to be in pole position to service the next generation of games.
“The quality of titles and developers that Geomerics works with was important to us,” continues Laudick, “but equally important was that Enlighten is genuine run-time technology.”
Geomerics was the first company to start licensing run-time global illumination technology as a middleware product when it launched Enlighten in 2008.
“There were a number of firms licensing technology for offline baking, but we wanted to get away from baked lightmaps and offer a fully dynamic alternative,” says Geomerics director Chris Doran.
Laudick adds: “That is what was really interesting for us. It is great technology and Geomerics is working closely with developers, which gives the team a deep knowledge of what they really want to see in the hardware, and where they expect specific technologies to run.
“We have a good dialogue with our middleware partners on these issues, but the chance to get first-hand knowledge from graphics experts was very compelling.”
Doran explained what the acquisition means for the future of Geomerics: “ARM shared our vision that real-time global illumination is absolutely key to the next evolution in graphics quality and immersion. We cut our teeth on the last console cycle, and have mature technology for this generation. The next big challenge for us was bringing the technology to mobile and ARM was a perfect fit for that.
“Over 2013 we started talking directly to mobile developers, and this meant we were working with ARM and other mobile companies on optimisation. It became apparent to us that ARM’s global reach on mobile could really help us grow.”
One point that was critical to Geomerics was getting ARM’s support for its existing roadmap. Doran says: “Techniques developed on PS4 and Xbox One will shape the agenda for graphics on mobile devices for years to come. It is important for us to be deeply involved in this work and ARM fully supports that. It has a quite realistic view about what is achievable on mobile versus consoles and wants to ensure its hardware is in line with what developers are experiencing on consoles.
“We were also attracted by ARM’s presence in Asia. The vast majority of our customers are based in Europe and North America. We knew that opening up Asia was going to prove a challenge while we remained a small organisation, but now we can tap into ARM’s massive presence in China, Korea and Japan.”
Laudick adds: “Ultimately, this as a great opportunity to support our customers and evolve the product, while expanding to new platforms and markets. ARM is keen to take this business to the next level.”
Geomerics will be in their traditional place in the Business Centre at GDC, demonstrating Enlighten on console, mobile and PC.
“We also have some exciting new announcements about Enlighten that will be revealed at the show,” Doran adds.