UK-based chip designer ARM has set its sights on being number one in the mobile gaming arena, and the company believes that advanced real-time lighting technology will help give it the edge.
ARM believes that graphics, light and lighting effects play a "significant part in the quality of the user experience", which is why it recently snapped up Cambridge-based gaming light specialists Geomerics.
Geomerics' global illumination technology, called Enlighten, lets developers create advanced effects - from compound reflections to refractions and shadows - bringing more life-like and photo realistic graphics to next-generation games consoles, PCs and now mobile devices.
It has already been shown off in games such as Battlefield 3, Battlefield 4, Eve Online, Need for Speed Rivals and Medal of Honour: Warfighter, with many more titles on the way. TechRadar Pro speaks to Dennis Laudick, video president of partner marketing at ARM, to find out what the acquisition means for the future of graphical fidelity.
TechRadar Pro: How did this acquisition come about?
Dennis Laudick: Like most companies, ARM is always on the lookout for advanced and unique technologies which are complementary to our business. Over the last few years, we've seen tremendous success with our Mali line of graphics processors.
Within graphics, light and lighting effects play a significant part in the quality of the user experience. That's part of the reason we've been working in partnership with Geomerics for over two years now.
As we looked to further accelerate our graphics products it became apparent that the technology and techniques that Geomerics had developed around lighting and global illumination were quite unique and a natural complement to help move our graphics products forward. Once the technical synergies were fully understood, we could see how well the teams were working together and the rest was fairly academic.
TRP: You've touched on 'global illumination' briefly, could you expand on what you mean by this and why there is a demand for it?
DL: It's a term used to describe advanced, photorealistic lighting effects in 3D graphics. Basically, it reproduces many of the secondary lighting effects which are traditionally difficult in computer generated graphics, and also makes images look more realistic. Today's graphics are typically limited to simple, direct lighting effects.
With Geomerics' global illumination, effects such as compound reflections, refractions, shadows and other advanced effects become possible, providing the more life-like graphics quality necessary for today's consoles, PC games – and now for mobile games too. What's unique to the approaches and techniques developed by Geomerics is that they are incredibly flexible and applicable to today's consumer electronics platforms.
TRP: So what was Geomerics' hook, line and sink?
DL: Enlighten technology. Enlighten is the world's first fully real-time global illumination technology, it's already revolutionising PC and console gaming in titles such as Battlefield 3 & 4, Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and we look forward to expanding its use in mobile gaming as well as Geomerics' current markets.
It is the only solution proven to deliver fully dynamic lighting across those platforms and complements our GPU processor solutions for an immersive mobile gaming experience. It does this with a lightweight energy efficient runtime, but equally important Enlighten's work flow offers significant improvements for graphic artists and game designers – without which it wouldn't catch on.
TRP: How does Enlighten compare to ray tracing? Does it compete with IMG's ray tracing, for example?
DL: As mentioned, lighting plays a big part in the user experience of modern graphics but most modern solutions are limited to direct lighting only. Ray tracing is an interesting underlying technology but, again, it's just an underlying technology. The real goal is what the user experiences which means the real goal is global illumination and the production of more advanced and complex lighting effects.