Intel has announced the creation of a new graphics research function within the Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group (AXG). At the head of the new division, Anton Kaplanyan, vice president, Accelerated Computing Systems and Graphics Group, will be relatively new. Kaplanyan adds to his long existing title the role of Chief Technology Officer and Head of Graphics Research Organization.
In a blog post about the expanded research that will continue under his leadership at Intel Graphics, Kaplanyan outlines several lines of research; in creating a new open and repeatable reference scene for graphics researchers, in new levels of photorealism using technologies such as path tracing, in machine learning graphics enhancements like XeSS, and in graphics technologies which will apply to Web 3.0 and/or the Metaverse.
Kaplanyan believes that we need richer graphics not only for games, but also for future immersive experiences, which was discussed by Raja Koduri in December. This means advanced graphics for remote work and presence, photorealistic simulation, and user-“photographed” 3D virtual environments. To do that, we don’t just need more powerful graphics cards in PCs, but powerful graphics acceleration across the full range of devices, from PCs to tablets and smartphones, to your home smart devices. Intel says it is preparing for this task with the aim of “advancing the whole field, the whole ecosystem”.
Talking about a vision is one thing, but Kaplanyan has already worked on something concrete, in line with his research organization’s commitment to an open and collaborative approach.
When Kaplanyan was working at Crytek, he released the iconic Sponza scene, which “has become a default scene in games, visualization, film, and other areas of research and development.” Having such a standard allows graphic design researchers to test their hardware and software innovations with reproducibility and comparability. In 2022 we will have an updated scene depicting the Sponza Atrium in Dubrovnik, Croatia. It features physical materials with 4K textures and high-resolution geometry, photogrammetrically matched to the stunning real-world location.
The Sponza upgrade is an initiative focused on short-term challenges, but still needs attention due to the fact that many devices still ship with rather poor graphics acceleration.
Looking a little deeper into the future of graphics, Kaplanyan provides a broad overview of the research topics his graphics research organization will be examining in the coming months. There are three main strands on this activity fork for now. With advances in graphics hardware opening up real-time ray-tracing graphics capabilities, Kaplanyan says Intel will work on path-tracing challenges. He says the industry is not yet at a place where real-time ray tracing is a practical solution for most.
Kaplanyan also mentions machine learning, which he calls “a great approximation tool for difficult problems,” including graphics. Work on XeSS is just the beginning of Intel’s use of ML, says Graphics Research Manager.
Finally, Kaplanyan sees the next graphics boom in user-generated 3D content. He shares his thoughts on how to make such content as easy as video production – now a hobby, calling or career for thousands of YouTubers.
Besides sharing the new and improved Sponza scene, much of what Intel Graphics says is working on sounds more like an Nvidia GeForce catch-up project. As a relatively new company that’s somewhat understandable, and we have to be patient. However, updates from Intel’s graphics research organization in, say, a year from now will hopefully show a little more evidence of inspirational thinking rather than me too.