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Nvidia Not only is it one of two customer-facing graphics card manufacturers on the market, but it has also made a name for itself by focusing on developing a wealth of cutting-edge 3D rendering technologies. From the company’s own ray tracing solution, RTX, all the way to its back-end latency optimization features like Nvidia Reflex.

So it’s not particularly surprising that Nvidia has filed a patent for a brand new shadow casting, which, by the looks of it, is likely to significantly improve area lighting. Curiously, this particular patent describes a new way to render shadows: a technique that runs in parallel with ray tracing without nearly as significant a performance penalty, though it appears to have a potential caveat.

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Specifically, Nvidia uses its latest patent to describe Voxel Cone Tracking, VCT. This technique is used by determining four points in a given space, which are then used to determine occlusion and shadow rendering. While the current list of games using ray tracing is pretty impressive, Nvidia’s patent hints that shadow casting can be done in different ways. That said, while ray tracing requires many area light samples and often only provides visually noisy results, VCT is more efficient and visually striking, with the obvious disadvantage that it may only be used for rectangular lights.

While the RTX 4000 GPU is rumored to be significantly faster than any previous GPU, Nvidia is clearly interested in further optimizing the RTX capabilities of its hardware. By using the VCT to create shadows, developers appear to be able to take advantage of cones of light sources that combine to provide crisp, realistic shadows with less performance penalty than is currently possible with conventional ray tracing.

There’s no doubt that this year’s Nvidia GPUs will set new performance records for ray-traced rendering, but it’s almost certain that the RTX 4000 will deliver a huge amount of power here. By rendering more accurate, more realistic images at lower rendering costs, Nvidia may be finding ways to improve the performance-per-watt ratings of new GPUs in cutting-edge games, which is always a good thing.

Some recent reports suggest that the alleged Nvidia RTX 4000 control, but it’s entirely possible that by using VCT and other similar technologies, future optimizations may help older RTX 3000 and RTX 2000 cards stay relevant for longer. However, since the patent was only recently filed, it’s likely that voxel cone tracking won’t be utilized in video games anytime soon.

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