Graphics chip maker
ATI Technologies Inc.
today unveiled a new next-generation graphics technology called Smartshader.
Smartshader has been created to provide developers with advanced pixel shading and vertex shading capabilities that they can custom-program themselves. The goal, said ATI, is to create the most realistically-lit and finely-detailed computer-generated 3D graphic images they can. The technology builds off Microsoft Corp.’s specification for its DirectX 8.1 application programming interface (API), but ATI has created Smartshader extensions for OpenGL, as well — the 3D API that Apple prefers to support in Mac OS.
ATI senior product manager Toshi Okumura explained that 3D application developers have always had a difficult time creating realistic computer-generated characters, objects and environments. The problem, said Okumura, is a combination of limited processing capabilities and restricted flexibility in the graphics hardware itself.
“By combining the speed and optimizations of a dedicated graphics processor with the flexibility and programmability of a CPU, Smartshader technology provides a virtually limitless range of visual effects at interactive frame rates,” said Okumura.
Smartshader supports the ability to apply up to six textures in a single rendering pass using pixel shaders. This results in better rendering performance by reducing memory bandwidth constraints on the graphics processor. The end result is the ability to produce more complex effects and more accurate models of organic materials and surfaces like skin, hair, wood, water and more.
Smartshader also supports the use of vertex shaders, which can modify the shape and position of 3D objects — useful for character animation, objects that bend and ripple, and particle effects.
What does this mean for developers? ATI said that Smartshader technology will aid them by reducing the time it takes to bring new graphics effects to end users.
“Developers will no longer have to wait for new graphics hardware or new versions of their preferred graphics API … they can now easily write a shader to implement their new creative ideas,” said Okumura.
Smartshader complements Truform, another new graphics technology introduced by ATI
this past May. Truform promises to add detail to 3D graphics by recalculating polygonal objects with much more detailed meshes — doing so on the graphics chip itself so as not to impact the computer’s processing capabilities.
ATI plans to incorporate the technologies into future hardware products which have not yet been introduced.