After witnessing the visual computing research demos at Research at Intel Day 2011, I am excited to envision consumer shopping experience in the near future. Actually the “near” future is going to be nearer than I thought because Intel Labs announced that it will release “Embree: Photo-Realistic Ray Tracing Kernels” as open source. This will enable people (yes, literally anyone) to try out the code and use it for free if they like it.

Embree is a progressive photorealistic rendering system that turns 3D models into images that are virtually indistinguishable from a photograph. Viewing 3D models as images is part and parcel of daily consumer life. Online shopping, movie production and architectural visualization are very good examples where realistic rendering of 3D models is important. Turning 3D models into pictures can be done in three ways. Non-interactive, real-time and progressive methods. Briefly the differences between these methods are

  • Non-interactive: Images are pre computed and stored for later viewing. (Example: Movie production)

  • Real-time: Used in dynamic interactive environments where it is impossible to predict the image to render. The 3D model must be converted to images on the fly and latency cannot be tolerated in such environments (Example: Games)

  • Progressive: An interactive scene can be converted to an image but slight latency can be tolerated (within seconds). A final image which is virtually indistinguishable from a photograph will be rendered in few seconds. This method can be viewed as intermediate between Offline (which takes hours or sometimes days) and real-time.

Professionals such as movie makers, architects, and car companies currently use non-interactive methods to create photo-realistic images for consumers. Software develops can use the Embree photo-realistic ray tracing kernels to improve the performance of their rendering applications by as much as 2X, accelerating the transition from non-interactive to progressive rendering.headlights.png

This transition will enable completely new applications and user experiences. Imagine being able to walk thru a newly-designed building online before it is built and being able to get photo-realistic pictures from arbitrary view points within seconds, or being able to see an accurate 3D model of your new car headlights before you order it.
Read about Embree, see a demo, and download the source at: http://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/embree-photo-realistic-ray-tracing-kernels/. I can’t wait to hear your experiences.

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