IC sharpens focus of 3D graphics on PCs

IC sharpens focus of 3D graphics on PCs
30 million transistor graphics chip implemented in 0.15?m process. Roy Rubenstein. Graphics accelerators with 30 million transistor counts are set to transform the performance of 3D graphics on PCs if the predictions of Scott Sellers, v-p of research and development at US graphics firm 3Dfx prove true. 3Dfx is already working on a next generation IC design, planned for 2001, which will be implemented in a 0.15?m process and incorporate 30 million transistors. “We are already performing simulations to work out the bit precisions needed,” said Sellers. The design addresses three key areas – anti-aliasing techniques, lighting and particle effects – which 3Dfx believes are needed if 3D graphics is to be transformed. The motivation for this is simple. “All the 3D players have been doing to date is accelerating the same basic algorithms that have been around for 20 years,” says Sellers. “But the general consumer has a mind-set defined by Hollywood. They are asking why we still are not doing Toy Story in real time. “Aliasing, which produces the image’s jagged edges – is the No. 1 thing consumers notice,” said Sellers. And whereas the anti-aliasing algorithms are well understood, they are currently slow and expensive to implement. Lighting is a more unbounded problem and therefore more problematic, while particle effects promise to better model objects such as leaves and snow. UK graphics firm, VideoLogic, agrees with 3Dfx’s assessment that 3D algorithms are set for a marked advance. “However, it’s not only the algorithms but the way they are implemented that is just as important,” said John Metcalfe, VideoLogic’s programme manager for PC chip products. Metcalfe cites the tiled rendering used in VideoLogic’s latest PowerVR architecture as an example, which eases the memory bandwidth bottleneck.


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