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AMD's new patent explains 'hybrid' ray tracing approach

AMD will step into the ray tracing ring in 2020 with new Radeon cards and next-gen consoles

By Anthony Garreffa from Jun 30, 2019 @ 21:20 CDT

NVIDIA has had ray tracing capable hardware in the form of the kick ass GeForce RTX graphics cards for close to a year now, and even AMD's next-gen-and-finally-nearly-here Navi-based Radeon RX 5700 series cards launch on 7/7, they still won't pack ray tracing abilities.

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This doesn't mean RTG engineers haven't been working on ray tracing in Navi, as the GPU architecture finds a new home inside of both the next-gen Xbox and PlayStation consoles which will both have ray tracing abilities, meaning AMD has been working on ray tracing for years. According to a new report by Tom's Hardware, AMD filed for a patent in 2017 which described a "hybrid" ray tracing solution that wouldn't solely rely on hardware-accelerated ray tracing.

NVIDIA has dedicated hardware on every GeForce RTX card for its real-time ray tracing, but AMD is looking to simplify things for next-gen Radeon cards. According to the recently discovered patent AMD will be using both existing shading units and "fixed function" hardware while saying "flexibility is preserved" for developers. This method, according to AMD's latest, would see performance and processing issues for hardware and software-based ray tracing be solved.

There's not much to go on here apart from the patent, but I do know that Navi 10 (the GPU inside of Radeon RX 5700/5700 XT doesn't have ray tracing capabilities) but the new Navi 20 (coming in 2020) will have ray tracing features. This is the chip that NVIDIA and AMD are tapping for next-gen consoles, so expect faster-than-ever Radeon GPUs to drop next year with ray tracing support, too.

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