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MIT Technology Review

Nvidia is using AI in chips to make video games even more realistic

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Artificial intelligence is helping to crack the challenge of creating lifelike light and shadow effects in games.

The news: Nvidia has just taken the wraps off new graphics chips that offer a significant improvement in “ray tracing,” or the process of representing light as pixels and accurately rendering what happens when it encounters virtual objects. (For an example, see the plane in the picture above from the game Battlefield V.) Generating lifelike reflections, refractions, and other effects requires considerable computing power, which has held ray tracing back in consumer gaming.

AI speed up: The existing approach to tackling light and shadows involves building an image from back to front, overlaying multiple elements to achieve the finished picture. Nvidia’s new chips, which are based on a recently updated architecture known as Turing, speed things up by rendering part of an image using this existing approach and then tapping artificial intelligence to predict and fill in the remaining light effects. 

Crypto slowdown: This real-time ray tracing capability should help juice sales of Nvidia’s graphics chips for gaming, and that could be excellent timing for the company. Turbulence in cryptocurrency markets has hit demand for its GPU chips, which until recently were being snapped up in large numbers by miners of Bitcoin and other virtual currencies.