Today, after much anticipation, Khronos Group is finally unveiling their ray tracing solution for the Vulkan API. This has been long awaited since (and even before) the launch of Nvidia’s RTX GPUs and the accompanying software, which has been underwhelming for many in delivering ray traced graphics. Vulkan based ray tracing could not come at a more opportune time given the launch of AMD’s RDNA2 GPUs and the new Xbox and Playstation, all of which will be arriving this year with ray tracing support.
Vulkan ray tracing is getting support from AMD, Nvidia, Intel, Imagination Technologies, and other companies. Though these ray tracing extensions can be used for any graphical workload (say for scientific work), most people are interested in gaming and how Vulkan ray tracing will impact the gaming experience. At this stage, it’s hard to tell, but I hope Vulkan will make ray tracing both more common and easier to run.
Currently, RTX is the only major hardware and software solution for ray tracing, and in many ways it has disappointed. For me, the largest issue with RTX is the lack of titles with support for the technology. Nvidia has struggled to get RTX in just the few titles that have support for it; accomplishing this task almost alone has been difficult for the company. Though many primarily criticize RTX’s poor performance and visual quirks, it is really the lack of software support that jeopardizes Nvidia’s ray tracing ambitions. Vulkan ray tracing should fix that.
I expect ray tracing to get alot more momentum thanks to all these companies uniting behind Khronos Group to ensure that the software side of things doesn’t hinder ray tracing. It’s a good thing rivalries in the hardware market aren’t getting in the way of making good software, and good software is much easier to attain when these companies work together rather than by themselves.