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Making Graphics In Games '100,000 Times' Better?

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the future-of-gaming-or-complete-bunk dept.

Graphics 291

trawg writes "A small Australian software company — backed by almost AUD$2 million in government assistance — is claiming they've developed a new technology which is '100,000 times better' for computer game graphics. It's not clear what exactly is getting multiplied, but they apparently 'make everything out of tiny little atoms instead of flat panels.' They've posted a video to YouTube which shows their new tech, which is apparently running at 20 FPS in software. It's (very) light on the technical details, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but they say an SDK is due in a few months — so stay tuned for more." John Carmack had this to say about the company's claims: "No chance of a game on current gen systems, but maybe several years from now. Production issues will be challenging."

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In other news... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956818)

No one is investing in actually doing good game design, at least in AAA, so all your graphical power is worth pretty much nothing if it's tied to a crappy, generic, one note game

Re:In other news... (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956924)

High quality voxel graphics with dynamic deformation would allow a whole new level of user-generated content.

Imagine something like world of warcraft meets second life, but without all the furries. (Something where if you take a shovel, and dig, you can dig up rocks, and other bits-- or even bury loot, or build a house out of ambient materials, and have it be persistent.)

Some people might complain that it opens the doors to world vandalism ([sarcasm]Oh dear, somebody wrote the word "Penis" in 30 foot letters on the ground by making trenches! They even drew one next to the word! Oh, think of the children! [/sarcasm]) but I think such vandalism would actually allow a richer and more dynamic character interaction to such a world, because it would motivate people to go clean it up.

Think-- sandcastles at the beach, Footprints in the sand, and other immersive details that could result.

The idea here is not to try to entertain the user directly, but to supply the user with what they need to entertain themselves, or others.

Re:In other news... (2)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957128)

>>High quality voxel graphics with dynamic deformation would allow a whole new level of user-generated content.

Yeah, that would actually be pretty damn neat. None of what they showed was dynamic, though.

About 10 years ago, when I was doing a lot of work with voxels, I'd arrange all the voxels in an octree and could adjust the framerate/detail simply by how far down each object's octree I'd traverse. I could have large, coarse voxels, or small, precise ones, adjust for distance from the viewer, and so forth. It worked out pretty well. They even made hardware voxel accelerators.

These Australian guys are claiming they're doing doing voxels, but whatever the hell their "little bitty atoms" tech means then, it looks awfully familiar to me.

Re:In other news... (2)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957488)

They say quite clearly that their little bitty atom tech is based on point clouds (not voxels).

Re:In other news... (1)

Arancaytar (966377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957268)

Something where if you take a shovel, and dig, you can dig up rocks, and other bits-- or even bury loot, or build a house out of ambient materials, and have it be persistent.

Yeah, that'd be awesome. A game where you could mine and craft all kinds of stuff... what to call it...

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957002)

Remember when 64-128+ MP support was normal? Now it's 'awesome' if they can fit 32 players on a map simultaneously. I remember playing with 48+ ON SCREEN simultaneously in the Tribes 1/2 days. It's sad how graphics advancements kill or totally regress progress made elsewhere, stuff that makes a game actually worth playing.

Re:In other news... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957066)

I remember the good old days of Dark Age of Camelot when we had raids with 200+ people. Screw those tiny 20-30ish player raids of current gen MMORPGs.

Re:In other news... (1)

Lexical_Scope (578133) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957354)

Ah yes, hiding in the Lord room of Caer Boldiam getting 1 frame every 15 seconds while the New Order PBAOE group farmed 300 Isen Vaktens followed closely by a crash to desktop.

Those were the days :)

Welcome to Australia. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956822)

Welcome to Australia. Where you have to claim you can make an industry the size of Hollywood "100,000 times better", to get $2 million in funding.

Re:Welcome to Australia. (2)

dakameleon (1126377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957016)

1) except the games industry is bigger than Hollywood by far
2) The department that provided the funding looks to be Commercialisation Australia [commercial...lia.gov.au] , which seems to basically be a government-backed VC-like operation - I can only imagine that exists because of the paltry VC in Australia.

Libraries of Congress? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956828)

How much is that in Libraries of Congress?

Re:Libraries of Congress? (2)

rbrausse (1319883) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956888)

one Sri Chinmoy Library [srichinmoylibrary.com]

(1 LoC [= 147M items] / 100000 ~ 1 SCL [~ 1.5K items])

hope this helps,

sincerely yours

animaaaation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956830)

needs more animated models...

nothing is moving.

Re:animaaaation (5, Informative)

daid303 (843777) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957004)

Which is the whole trick, this was shown off at least a year ago, it pops up now and then.

The tech precalculates a LOT, for that it needs static model information.
The site of the creators is http://unlimiteddetailtechnology.com/ [unlimitedd...nology.com]

http://forums.tigsource.com/index.php?topic=11624.30 [tigsource.com] they talked about it last year.

Re:animaaaation (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957476)

Is that why the lighting looks terrible too?

As with everything it looks to be something that suffers compromises, sure they've made things look better, but if it can't be lit well, and if it can't be animated easily it's not much use for games.

Re:animaaaation (1)

somersault (912633) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957024)

Also, dynamic lighting/shaders. It doesn't look great yet. There are a few games around that do nicer modelling than [insert generic FPS here].

Re:animaaaation (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957468)

Yep. As a static voxel engine (and I can only assume it to be, as they don't appear to have demonstrated anything else), it's impressively fast at that high a resolution, but not particularly useful for a game engine. A dynamic voxel engine [youtube.com] however...

Unfortunately for us gamers... (1)

Thantik (1207112) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956836)

Most games recently just kind of suck and rest upon the shoulders of innovative graphics. This does not make me hopeful for the future of gaming.

However, if this technology isn't a scam like I suspect, I still welcome it. It could change the face of computer graphics as we currently know it forever.

Re:Unfortunately for us gamers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956996)

Also, if this technology is not a scam, welcome to a whole new wave of CGI movies, CGI in TV, CGI EVERYWHERE.

Even moreso than now I mean.

Re:Unfortunately for us gamers... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957126)

Look, from my point of view we (gamers) don't need better graphics, if we never "need" it. We need better games, with fresh idea, stories and, for me, free roaming.

Re:Unfortunately for us gamers... (1)

Yaotzin (827566) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957432)

You're worried about the future of gaming because the games will be better? Graphics isn't everything, but it IS important. There have always been crappy games and that's not going away. At the same time there are tons of awesome games being released with superior graphics and effects, which makes them even better. Improved graphics is no substitute for story and gameplay, but it's not harmful either, quite the opposite.

Yeah, and I am a Pony (3, Insightful)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956838)

The "goal" of crazy people who don't actually understand computers has always been to make graphics (and sometimes logic) based on "atoms"/particles/etc. The problem is not that it can't be done - anyone who has ever used a 3D modeling program with fluid dynamics has that power right in front of them - the problem is that it can't realistically be done in real time with our technology. Hell, it can't realistically be done pre-rendered without a supercomputer.

So sure, it could make it '100,000 times better.' No one is really debating that, and it isn't news to anyone who knows the first thing about graphics. What would be news would be hardware that better supported it. Somehow, I don't think that's what we have here. Notice the lack of specifics as to what KIND of graphics they seek to improve.

Looks like the Australians just got scammed for 2 million.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956868)

Don't say it can't be done now, I've been living in a real-time, atom based world for years... I was born a voxel.

HEX

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

bky1701 (979071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956928)

Addendum. I watched the video (OK, skimmed it). As far as particles go, this doesn't look like it is actually intended to be a full particle system. Rather, some kind of hybrid, like particle effects are done now. So sure, that could be something new - but still, their claims are formed in a very misleading way, given this.

I did however notice an extremely questionable statement which makes me seriously suspect this is a scam.

5:45 - he makes the claim that real-world scanned objects can't be used in games because the resolution is too high. This is completely false. Game developers have scanned objects for a long time, and even more often, made extremely high resolution models on purpose. The models are then lowered in resolution down to a usable form, and the differences between the low-res and high-res models is compiled into a normal (bump) map. This is how almost all first person game textures are made these days. (The benefits of this process are mainly surrounding the better efficiency of textures in holding the depth data than polys, especially at varying distances where complex geometry results in extreme aliasing, and the fact that high-poly models cause serious issues with more advanced lighting schemes.) To make the claim this guy just did is highly suspect.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (3, Insightful)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957350)

5:45 - he makes the claim that real-world scanned objects can't be used in games because the resolution is too high. This is completely false. Game developers have scanned objects for a long time, and even more often, made extremely high resolution models on purpose. The models are then lowered in resolution down to a usable form, and the differences between the low-res and high-res models is compiled into a normal (bump) map. This is how almost all first person game textures are made these days. (The benefits of this process are mainly surrounding the better efficiency of textures in holding the depth data than polys, especially at varying distances where complex geometry results in extreme aliasing, and the fact that high-poly models cause serious issues with more advanced lighting schemes.) To make the claim this guy just did is highly suspect.

So, what you're saying is that people scan real world objects, but don't actually use those models in games... so... once one accounts for market speak "you can't use a scan of a real-world object in a game [without dropping enough detail so that you're not using the original scan]."

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957494)

No, they don't use the raw point cloud models, they perform some processing first. And I doubt these guys use unprocessed point clouds for their engine either, so it's a ludicrous claim.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (2)

iinlane (948356) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956938)

Seen this video few years ago - definitely a scam.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

dintech (998802) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957260)

Seen this video few years ago - definitely a scam.

How is that possible? Crysis 2, featured in the video, was only released this year. I'm not saying this ISN'T a scam or that you might have see a similar video, but you did not see THIS video a few years ago.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (2)

gutnor (872759) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956944)

They claim they can do in realtime what you say is impossible. Now, if you don't actually have any technical argument, I'll take the view of an expert: John Carmack does not think it is a scam. That said, there are big always big challenges to go from the tech demo to the finished product for sure and they are unlikely to make it especially in the current game market which is already struggling to create content.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957096)

John Carmack does not think it is a scam

But actually what John Carmack is saying is that with current computer power there is no chance of having that sort of graphics in real time. As other have said, according to the presented video the technology looks like a particle system. Basically what they do is to replace polygons with spheres (I assume) but these spheres are very small, so they have a lot of more objects.

The problem (if there is any) with current graphics is not that they are made of polygons but that these polygons are big. An equivalent technology would be to make the same low resolution "palm tree" (shown in their video) with a lot of smaller polygons.

So they made a system in which each voxel [wikipedia.org] is made by a sphere. As they point in the video, this is not new, and has been used in medicine and research for some time. The fact that it has not been used before was due to lack of processing power in consumer software.

But hey, they are actually making an SDK that uses this technology. Maybe in 2012 such real time graphics will run at 5FPS but in 2030 the technology will allow them to run at 100FPS.

Overall, it is good that someone is doing it. My take is that this is one of those things that will be looked before as "these guys were ahead of their time", like Babbage's Analytical Engine (only comparing in "spirit" I am not saying these two have the same merits) or several of the Internet technologies that came in the the early 90's ahead of its time.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (3, Informative)

DJHeRobotExVV (2402664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957098)

They claim they can do in realtime what you say is impossible. Now, if you don't actually have any technical argument, I'll take the view of an expert: John Carmack does not think it is a scam. That said, there are big always big challenges to go from the tech demo to the finished product for sure and they are unlikely to make it especially in the current game market which is already struggling to create content.

Here, kid, as an actual graphics programmer, I'm translate Carmack's producer- and marketing-approved Twitter into plain, run-of-the-mill English for the simple-minded:

Statement: "No chance of a game on current gen systems, but maybe several years from now."

Translation: "No chance of a game on current-gen systems, nor what will be the next generation, as Wii U devkits have already been seeded to developers and it'd be foolish to think that Sony or Microsoft are very far behind. Insofar as nobody, not even me, can really predict what the game industry will be like in a year let alone several years, it's a pretty safe bet to say that it will *maybe* happen several years from now."

Statement: "Production issues will be challenging."

Translation: "It will be quite difficult to produce any real game out of this, being as it clearly appears to lack any shading model other than simple diffuse lighting and don't appear to have any kind of programmable materials pipeline whatsoever."

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957240)

Pity your high-flying actual graphics programming career never taught you how to write.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

gutnor (872759) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957262)

So no real different than raytracing demo presented by Intel. That is still a level above "scam" and "impossible, duh".

There is almost every day an article about revolutionary new material, source of energy, cure for cancer, ... the vast majority of it never make it to an actual product for lots of different reasons (does not scale, too weird, politic, bad time, fashion, $$$, 90% there syndrom, overoptimism, fatal flaws). That is still interesting, certainly more interesting than the 5 articles there will be today about the latest rumor of rumor on the next iPhone.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956952)

If my memory serves me right, the UD guys have been doing those claims for what, more than half a decade now? It's always the "GPU manufacturers want to silence us down", recycled footage, only a single test scene with repeated trees, grass, statues and rocks. It seems whenever people forget about their scam, they come up with a new montage, saying they are nearly finishing whatever product they are working on, and that they need investors.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956956)

The point is they've found a way to do it with current hardware.
Is it real? We'll know for sure when they release their SDK.

Is it even possible? It's only impossible until someone ignores conventional thought and does it anyhow.

(I've done some things on computers that were 'impossible', I just didn't accept the limitations and did something nobody had thought of before. Many cool pieces of programming were considered impossible before someone went and pulled it off anyhow. So the way I see it, if I and other people can do the 'impossible' with software, I see no reason a bunch of other smart people can't do it. In a decade or two after release, nobody will understand why it took so long for someone to do it this way, just wait.)

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956988)

I find myself wondering if what they are doing is using voxels to step down the detail level om distant objects while stepping it up on near objects, and not even bothering with the objects out of view.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957072)

Perhaps the bigger issue, rather than rendering in real time, would be storage capacity. Not only do you have to maintain a decent FPS (they claimed to get 20 FPS in software and more using hardware acceleration), but you also have to store all that data and load it. Their island demo claimed to have many trillion of their "atoms" which were used to render the image. Many trillion atoms would translate into terabytes of data. Short of distributing games on actual multi-terabyte hard drives, it's going to take a significant advancement in optical or other distribution media before games will be able to include that much data. And even if they did go the hard drive route, loading levels would take an hour or more without a substantial advancement in hard drive sequential read IOPS.

Polygon-based graphics are not only easier on GPUs, they also fit on a ~40GB optical disk.

Procedurally generated (1)

fireylord (1074571) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957458)

That's the answer to that part of the equation. See minecraft.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957074)

Actually, it was being done realistically in near real-time over 10 years ago, using splatting based techniques (see surfels and QSplat http://graphics.stanford.edu/software/qsplat/ [stanford.edu] ). These systems weren't really suitable or fast enough for games at the time, but 10 years is a long time for hardware and software to progress.

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

iamhassi (659463) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957164)

"Looks like the Australians just got scammed for 2 million."

Worse than that, he did this over a year ago [popsci.com] . Here's his video from February 2010 [youtube.com] which is basically the same as the July 2011 version [youtube.com] .

His linkedin goes into a bit more detail: [linkedin.com] "The Unlimited Detail system consists of a compiler that takes point cloud data and converts it in to a compressed format, the engine is then capable of accessing this data in such a way that it only accesses the pixels needed on screen and ignores the others generating real-time graphics that look like unlimited polygons. it is also the best available way of displaying laser scanned environments, they can be of unlimited size and this will not slow down the system."

Compression? Showing only the information needed on the screen? They already do both of those. Also of interest is he was CEO of "Unlimited Detail" from 1995 until 2010, so apparently this guy has never held a job or graduate college. [popsci.com]

Wonder how long the Australian gov't will wait before arresting him for fraud?

Re:Yeah, and I am a Pony (1)

StripedCow (776465) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957290)

Perhaps they've invented a compiler that's so smart that it can deal with (code handling single) atoms by cleverly dividing them into groups or something.

As an analogy: fluid mechanics also does not describe one atom at a time, yet the equations are valid on a larger scale.

If it's true... (1)

jampola (1994582) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956840)

I'll will be eagerly awaiting an IPO!

Re:If it's true... (1)

jampola (1994582) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956858)

*I will be, not "I'll" or maybe just "I'll" without the "will". Living in a non English speaking country sucks for my English abilities! (That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!)

Re:If it's true... (1)

rts008 (812749) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957068)

Don't be so hard on yourself over this one mistake.
I've seen much worse grammar from native English speakers here in the USA. [NO citation needed if you read /. comments]

After all, there is a reason that political speeches in the USA are written to target an 8th grade education.(previously covered on /. within the last year or two)

Maybe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956844)

Point clouds, with a custom search algorithm that culls unseen points from being processed for rendering. Technically and mathematically feasible, but the biggest question mark is if this tech will fit into the dev pipeline with other stuff that needs to go into a game. Lighting, asset creation, animations, physcis, A.I., and all that other jazz. Oh and don't forget all that money the big boys like NVIDIA and ATI have spent in pursuing their technologies, that might be a problem. DISCLAIMER : I maek teh vidyagamez.

Re:Maybe (1)

Ceriel Nosforit (682174) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957162)

nVidia and AMD are currently looking at real-time ray tracing, because that's where intel is going and they have to compete. There is also CUDA and OpenCL, and the next stepping for GPUs is almost half of the current. (meaning performance/cost ~doubles) Anandtech says AMD promises a 22nm card this year still. GPUs are no longer toys; they are a form-factor for supercomputers.

I don't think for example caustics would work very well with voxels, but a hybrid solution would perhaps be ideal, where you could have voxels alongside normal polygons. This does however mean that these guys would have to sell their software as an addition to some Id/cry/UDK etc. engine which is much less glamorous than revolutionizing computer game graphics. They appear to enjoy the attention a little too much for their own good.

Voxels (1)

Michael Hunt (585391) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956856)

Now is not the time for voxels. At current hardware specs, the computing time:image quality tradeoff comes out so far in favour of rasterizing (or whatever) polygons it's insane.

These guys had a tech demo floating around a few years ago, and to my eyes, not a lot has changed.

Re:Voxels (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956902)

It's fine if you don't use the opengl fixed function pipeline.

There are many voxel and raytracing renderers out there that are fast enough to run in real time on affordable hardware.
I remember there was a project for Larrabee, in particular, which was very impressive, but unfortunately got cancelled.

Re:Voxels (4, Interesting)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957012)

This is probably not actually what is generally called "voxels", but a hierarchical point cloud system consisting of points on the surface of objects, rendered via some kind of weighted splatting mechanism. There was a lot of research into such systems for visualising some of the very high resolution point clouds coming out of digital laser scanning systems (for example QSplat, which came out of the Digital Michelangelo project http://graphics.stanford.edu/software/qsplat/ [stanford.edu] ).

I was about to say voxels too. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957080)

I think Novalogic had some voxel based games around 1999 or so.

All is not lost (2)

Jarryd98 (1677746) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956862)

They've definitely proved they're capable at:
- Hiring the most annoying voice over guy.
- Over use of the word 'unlimited.'

Thankfully they have UNLIMITED POWER at their disposal to prove any further developments.

Re:All is not lost (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956906)

Concur about the voice being annoying but to be fair, in the beginning he said he was the CEO so it wasn't a professional voice actor...

Re:All is not lost (1)

Jarryd98 (1677746) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956920)

That's a fair point. I probably wouldn't be spending what precious funding I had on unnecessary resources, either.

Re:All is not lost (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956960)

he was the CEO so it wasn't a professional voice actor.

Acting is a core CEO competency.

Re:All is not lost (1)

Nagrom (1233532) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956946)

He sounds like he escaped from QVC or a low budget infomercial or something. "Order now at the low price of $16.95 and receive this free ..."

The company got back to me (4, Interesting)

trawg (308495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956886)

(I submitted this article) I fired off a request for more information from the developers about this and they got back to me indicating they're willing to answer some more questions, so I've summarised some of the main ones that I've seen around the place.

We're based in the same city as this company (Brisbane, Australia) so I'm hoping that I might be able to actually go out there and eyeball this stuff myself to get a feel for it (and possibly drag along a graphics programmer to do some grilling).

Re:The company got back to me (1)

lance_of_the_apes (2300548) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956926)

I would really like to hear the results. I've been writing a 3d engine for the past year and a half - wouldn't want to learn I'd wasted my time! ;)

Re:The company got back to me (1)

trawg (308495) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956998)

I would really like to hear the results. I've been writing a 3d engine for the past year and a half - wouldn't want to learn I'd wasted my time! ;)

Heh, given the investment of the industry and users in 3d hardware I think you're probably on the safe side :)

Re:The company got back to me (1)

Wizarth (785742) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957056)

I too am interested in hearing more about this.

Oddly enough, I'm working for a company that's working on a modelling tool for "infinite detail", with a aim for 3d fabrication. But it's not voxels, like the engine here shows.

Old news is old. (1)

DurendalMac (736637) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956898)

The video is new, but the demo of the tech certainly isn't. I saw this years ago.

Re:Old news is old. (1)

ctid (449118) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956936)

The commentary in the video said that they'd demonstrated an early version a year ago and then disappeared. They're back now that they've got something new to show.

Animation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956910)

The engine itself is a relatively easy idea behind it. Similar ideas have been used before and are essentially the backbone of most voxel-like games.

But ANIMATION would be an absolute nightmare on it.
Think of engines like Minecraft with these huge complex redstone machines that number 2000+ state-changes per second (if that), they can be very laggy.
That is only state-change rather than animation. 2000 sand blocks falling is murder to the CPU/
How about 1,000,000 atoms of UD model?

I remember the last video they made that said they had "solved" the animation problem with large-scale voxel-like worlds.
But they showed nothing this time, sadly. Well, they did show, to an extent, a polygon->point-cloud converter. That'd be extremely useful if it works well, the last one I used was AWFUL, to put it bluntly.

Lastly, they shouldn't be making enemies with the GP U companies.
Those guys could be helping this kind of tech massively because, if they have done what I think they might have done with animation, GPUs could help run such stuff at stupidly higher speeds than CPUs can right now, simply due to the core-count in GPUs being larger.

I'm really hoping someone has finally come up with a decent method for doing this. I sure tried figuring out ways on spare time with no real luck.

Great (1)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956922)

So that means 100,000 times more work to make everything that detailed?

Or else everyone who makes games uses a standard library of objects to cut/paste and so the games end up looking the same anyway?

This is voxels all over again, in a modern iteration. Yeah, it looks cool, but it increases your development time and isn't anywhere near as fast as other techniques and all those graphical "shortcuts" that standard 3D cards do are done for a reason - nobody *really* notices or cares so long as the game runs smoothly and there's time enough for AI, pathfinding, physics etc.

I see this as the equivalent of FLAC vs MP3 - yeah, sure it's definitely contains more information but at the cost of storage size and, in the end, 99% of people won't actually care.

More crap in the graphics pipeline isn't what I've been looking for for the past 10 years in PC gaming, though. Actually the opposite. I was just looking for something more approaching a game than a 3D sculpture to walk around inside of.

Not to mention, this sort of tech demo has been possible for decades. Maybe not this exact thing as those exact resolutions and those exact framerates, but the result is practically identical to several things I've seen in the past. Now, tell me, which of those actually resulted in a commercial game that used that technology? None. And until it does, it's like telling me that someone has made an "uncrashable" computer, or "compression of most data down to just 20% size". Lovely theory, but until the utility / OS / game that does it can actually land on my computer, it is nothing more than a piece of trivia.

Re:Great (1)

lance_of_the_apes (2300548) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956986)

That's a rather pessimistic outlook. I am very skeptical that this is genuine, but 20 fps would be very impressive, if so. Polygons will continue to be used to define the basic structure of objects, and displacement maps do the rest, so it wouldn't add to production time at all. Quite the contrary, it would save time because there would be no need to build multiple levels of detail. Very exciting, if it's real...

Re:Great (1)

JMJimmy (2036122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957010)

While I don't think this tech is practical for anything but static environments, if you watched the video you'd note that they convert from standard industry tools to their "point cloud data" *cough*voxels*cough* so there's no extra work just extra processing time.

Re:Great (1)

lance_of_the_apes (2300548) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957030)

The YouTube post says they have animation, but I don't know why they'd hold it back...

Re:Great (1)

JMJimmy (2036122) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957090)

Yeah they made that claim a year ago. Someone on digg did an excellent rundown on the math involved in this type of approach (voxels) and without cutting some serious corners it doesn't seem realistic. I'll remain unconvinced until I see a demo and more technical data.

Re:Great (1)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957460)

Point cloud != voxels.

Voxels = regularly sampled volume elements.
Point cloud = irregularly sampled points, usually on the surface of an object.

Will this start the old discussion? (2)

Robert Zenz (1680268) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957058)

I see this as the equivalent of FLAC vs MP3 - yeah, sure it's definitely contains more information but at the cost of storage size and, in the end, 99% of people won't actually care.

But FLAC sounds so much better then 512Kib/s mp3 with my $ 15 headphones and on-board soundcard!

Re:Great (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957122)

So that means 100,000 times more work to make everything that detailed?

You just showed that you do not know what you are talking about. The main process for producing game graphics nowadays involves the artist doing a high definition model of a thing in a modelling program like Maya or 3D Studio (or Blender) and then they have to perform the arduous task of reducing the polygon count (with he help of several automation tools) until they get to a satisfactory count.

If tomorrow suddenly we had computers running at 10000Ghz, these same models could be exported directly without polygon reduction, increasing the detail of the scenes with *less work* actually (i.e., without the step of polygon reduction).

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidenc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956932)

But hey if we require evidence before the story can be posted on slashdot, how are we ever going to get enough that we can forget what was posted before and eventually post the same stories again?

Nomenclature (2)

neurosine (549673) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956948)

Aren't they simply calling pixels atoms, and rasterizing images, as opposed to vectorizing them? I fail to see any novel technology. I'm happy to listen though if there is something involved I missed.

History repeating? (1)

Jimbookis (517778) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956958)

I haven't RTFA but such hyperbole immediate made me think of Adam Clarke and His Platform. We all know how that worked out. http://www.adamsplatform.com.au/ [adamsplatform.com.au]

I call bullshit (5, Insightful)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956972)

If they really could do realtime graphics that were "100,000 times" more detailed than current stuff, they'd do one of two things:

1) Release a demo so people could actually try it and see it working on their systems, to prove it was real. Or more likely...

2) License that shit to a company in the industry. Intel would be extremely interested if it ran on CPUs as they'd love for people to spend more money on CPUs and none on GPUs. Any game engine maker would be extremely interested either way. Wouldn't matter if things still had to be hammered out, at the point they claim to be, that would be more than plenty to sign a licensing deal and get to work.

So I'm calling bullshit and saying it is a con. This is classic con man strategy: You show a demo, but one that is hands off, where the people watching only get to see what you want them to see and don't actually get to play with your product. You make all sorts of claims as to how damn amazing it is, but nobody actually gets to try it out.

This has been a con tactic for centuries, I've no reason to believe it is any different here.

So to them I say: Put up or shut up. Either release a demo people can download that will let them see this run on their own systems, or get a reputable company to license it. If Intel comes out and says "This is for real, we've licensed the technology and will be releasing a SDK for people as soon as it is ready," I'll believe them, as they have a history of delivering on promises. So long as it is some random guys posting Youtube videos, I call bullshit.

Re:I call bullshit (3, Insightful)

ThirdPrize (938147) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957166)

On the vague off chance it is real, the last thing they would do is release a demo. The first thing everyone else would do is reverse engineer it and rip them off.

Re:I call bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957250)

I bet you're great at parties.

You did not understand (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957272)

1. They are not done yet.

2. That is exactly what they try. Create some buzz, get everyone interested, THEN show it to everyone and make profit.

3. Yes, it could be a con. On the other hand, we have worked on the technology of polygons for decades now (with the short exception of a handful voxel games)... I'd say the time was ripe for some other technology to come along. Why not this?
We have seen what voxel-engines looked like in the 90s - and since then (Novalogic with the Comanche-titles or Outcast) no one has done some serious development of voxel-engines. When the first 3D-acceleration cards came out, they killed that development entirely.

What would modern voxel engines look on modern CPUs and maybe also when shoved in modern GPUs? There are some projects by people here and there but I have not seen what massive research in that sector could do, simply because no one (AMD, Intel, Nvidia, Crytec, Epic, anyone who is "big") has done that (or at least told us about it). So far, we compare the highly advanced (in years as well as manhours and money) technology of polygons and rasterizer graphics to some hobby projects or small-team-projects.

I'd say: It's time for a more advanced technology as the whole polygon-thing is a compromise in the first place. Don't invest money here unless you really have it and really have seen something - but blatantly saying "this is shit!" is like claiming flying in a plane was impossible in the year 1900.
No matter if that here is real or not, I say the entire voxel-technology is something worth looking at has it could get around a lot of disadvantages that polygon-based technology has as it came to live as approximation (like for Elite, then later with textures). Given some fluff as normal maps etc the technology is still the very same as it was for Tie Fighter.

Why not see what else is out there?

Err (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956980)

unlimited detail..

unlimited points / 3 = unlimited triangles

so... sticking to triangles? heh

Re:Err (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957114)

It could be point data, rendered through a subpixel renderer.

Instead of 3d voxels in the traditional sense, it would be 1d points in 3d space, with luminance, specularity, and fuzziness variables assigned. After that it is just lighting and pixel shading, which would be embarrassingly parallel. You would render the scene as a 2d canvas that fills the whole viewport.

LOD would be based on the available viewport resolution.

Other voxel engine (4, Interesting)

binkzz (779594) | more than 3 years ago | (#36956982)

This russian guy made his own voxel engine as well, which I believe is hardware accelerated and also pretty impressive: http://www.atomontage.com/ [atomontage.com]

worst press release evar. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36956984)

from the ceo's linked in profile -

Alternative to polygon system
The Unlimited Detail system consists of a compiler that takes point cloud data and converts it in to a compressed format, the engine is then capable of accessing this data in such a way that it only accesses the pixels needed on screen and ignores the others generating real-time graphics that look like unlimited polygons. it is also the best available way of displaying laser scanned environments, they can be of unlimited size and this will not slow down the system.

Point clouds to compressed data with an access engine could potentially give some interesting results. Not sure what will be 100,000 times better though.

Just advanced level of detail rendering? (1)

Doppler00 (534739) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957044)

So did they just essentially develop a super intelligent LOD loading system that uses procedural instancing? I'm pretty sure you could put together similarly impressive demos using the latest tricks from Nvidia and ATI using standard polygon rendering. The fact they are using points vs. polygons isn't that interesting to me.

What is fundamentally missing here? Animation, lighting and shadows. Those are going to be really hard problems to solve and I'm curious how they will go about it.

Also, it's not "infinite" detail. There is going to be a fundamental limit in regards to CPU memory or GPU memory. You can only store so much "detail" at the various detail levels in the different stages of memory. As soon as it has to dynamically load an entire detailed world that doesn't include just 20 instanced models, but more like 10,000, than I'm sure it will run a lot slower.

However... I am excited for this. DDR3 is getting dirt cheap, if they could make a game that actually used all 8GB of my memory I'd be impressed.

Re:Just advanced level of detail rendering? (1)

lance_of_the_apes (2300548) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957076)

According to the YouTube page, they have improved lighting and shadows and animation. It's hard to tell how it is supposed to work, but I'm sure the details are randomly generated somehow. Otherwise, as you said, the memory would get used up rather quickly.

Oh, boy! (1)

DJHeRobotExVV (2402664) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957052)

Euclidean, where modern graphics technology dead-ended in a universe where Jim Blinn developed the only shading model in existence!

I Agree With Carmack (1)

mentil (1748130) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957094)

It'll take a while for this tech to get turned into an engine with animation/shading/lighting working, and no game developer will touch it until that happens. Euclideon had the right idea making a converter to turn polygonal models into voxel models, since noone was going to dedicate the money to create high-quality voxel assets that couldn't be used if they decided to scrap the tech and use a normal polygon engine. This tech is risky, so the first game to use it is likely going to be a cheaply-made game, possibly by the company itself a la Serious Sam.

The big problem is speed, right now it's completely CPU dependent. I'm unsure how parallelizable it is, but CPUs aren't increasing in speed as quickly as GPUs are. Perhaps some GPGPU code would help? Barring that, a board with dedicated hardware a la the PhysX board might make this feasible.

Re:I Agree With Carmack (1)

Tom (822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957480)

It'll take a while for this tech to get turned into an engine with animation/shading/lighting working, and no game developer will touch it until that happens.

That's also my highest doubts. How does the system handle animations at all? The demos they have shown so far have no movement aside from the camera.

I am very, very much looking forward to this. I can barely imagine the amount of creative potential being freed up if for most real-life objects you don't need hours of artist time anymore, but simply throw them into a laser scanner and be done with it. Your artists could focus on other things.

But I'd very much like to know what the shortcomings and limitations are.

What they probably do (1)

should_be_linear (779431) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957150)

Here is what I think they probably do, similar to raytracing: They fire one "photon" from eachone pixel of screen into the scene. As oposed to raytracing, this photon is never divided to multiple copies, it travels until it reaches something. Photon is traveling through the scene by adding X,Y,Z from pre-calculated table, until it reaches box with something in it, then it halves step for x,y,z, looking for even smaller boxes etc. until box is so small it represents one pixel, OR photon is outside the box (object missed) and step is doubled again. I had this idea before and yes, that would be pretty much enable "unlimited graphics" but there is major problem I see here: graphics are static! How they want to make something move? That would mean moving gigabytes of data around, which makes original problem come from other side. For example, realistic waves on the sea are simple using traditional graphics, here it is impossible. Maybe they will be able to use this for "static" scene and transfer it to Z-buffer, than paint moving parts using traditional OpenGL. In modern games, however, there are lots of moving animated stuff, so what you get is, basically, that you can improve quality of background using this technique and add saved polygons to animated stuff. GPU is definitely still needed, with same performance as before.

Re:What they probably do (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957206)

The idea you've had is the standard traversal of an octree. Congratulations on reinventing a standard tool in CGI. :-)

Re:What they probably do (1)

snowgirl (978879) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957384)

The idea you've had is the standard traversal of an octree. Congratulations on reinventing a standard tool in CGI. :-)

Yet another person falls to Saunt Lora's Proposition.

Re:What they probably do (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957496)

I think their smarts are in modeling the environment data such, that they don't have to move gigabytes around for every image. Also, as they claim in TFA, they have a very limited "shade" model. They probably cut a lot of corners when it comes to reflectiveness and secondary light sources and all that.

Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957222)

Let's assume what they claim was true for a moment:

They can create a awesomely detailed static world but what they lack so far is the entire shadowing and lighting thing, they also do not seem to be able to do animations (which includes animation of the environment, as water or lava or moving trees).

Some of these problems are easy to get around, no one said they could not put polygon-characters and objects into their world.

A destructible world should also open new possibilities as you can "fill" your objects with coloured atoms (voxels) and then shatter them to pieces along pre-defined lines.
Similarly as you could put in polygons here and there, you can also throw in some shader effects and make all kinds of glowing or seemingly dynamic things, so this shortcoming of their engine could be circumvented.

All this said was puzzles me they never say what hardware they run on. I can believe what they build there was true, I just do not believe it runs on anything we might have under our desks within the next 5 or so years.
They say they have a version that runs on 20 fps in software. On 20 CPUs? Or on 2? That engine seems to be generalizable, so it does not seem unlikely you'll be able to move it into the unified shaders of a GPU. Given how fast they develop I do not find it that unlikely - given what they state is true - a top GPU/CPU configuration of the next or overnext generation of hardware might run this.
THIS! Probably not the version that also has shadows, AI, moving characters, collision detection, physics, destructible environment and objects, moving trees and grass, lighting, weather, and all the other fuzz modern games have.

That said: I do not know if it works or not but it seems to be a pretty interesting thing that could become something in 5 or 10 years. Assuming this does not come from a 3D renderer (and is a total con) it is also nice to see the progress they made and we have to consider they do not seem to be a massive company with millions and billions behind them.
If we assume this actually does work (not as they claim but at least somewhat in that direction) it'll be pretty interesting to see what happens if Intel or AMD get their hands on that technology and put 500 million of further R&D into it or if someone as Crytec spots "the technology works" and gets heavily into it.

Re:Summary (1)

lattyware (934246) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957378)

They have claimed they can make animation work - although how well is another question. As to lighting, right at the end, they showed a far improved lighting setup they claim to have just got working.

Let's... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957264)

Let's focus on making the game 100,000 times better themselves first please, then focus on graphics. Actually, let's focus on having 100,000 LESS FPS games before we even talk about improving the industry otherwise please.

Very Skeptical (1)

GoodnaGuy (1861652) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957326)

I actually had a jon interview with these people a few months back. It was the shortest interview I ever had. They are based on an industrial estate near the south end of the gateway bridge in Brisbane. There offices are quite small.. When I visited there were only one or two people there. Sadly they gave no clues as to how there technology works, all I can say is its something involving octrees and voxels. This area has been covered by a lot of people before. They seem to think they have developed the technolgy to the extent that the rendering time is only dependant upon the screen resolution, no matter what the detail in the scene. The main thing that makes me skeptical is that they are getting there money from a government department set up to encourage technology and past experience tells me that these sort of people arent really at judging the viability of things high tech things. If there technology was that good they would have investors cueing up round the block. Reminds me a bit of a TV show I saw years ago about a guy in California who said he had made a car run on water. I wanted to believe that was true, being only young and foolish. Obviously nothing came of that or we would all be driving them now. Anyway, back to the interview. They never got back to me, despite the fact that the guy seemed keen to get back to me for a second interview. When I finally got back to them they said the job was no longer available. Seemed a bit funny as just after the interview there was an announcement in the press of the winning the grant and they were saying how they were going to expand their team to develop the technology on different platforms. Havent seen any more job opening advertised. As an aside, if you want to see a good demo of voxel technology. Check out the web site of Dennis Bautembach. Hes at Hamburg university in Germany. Hes written some code for animating octrees. You can download demo code to see how it works and hes also written a paper about it. So good on him for developing it and sharing it with the rest of us. The link is http://bautembach.de/wordpress/?page_id=7 [bautembach.de]

Many such silly claims (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957398)

I don't understand why all these lame claims keep propping up on usually good sites such as /. or hackaday etc.

I mean, read their website.. This is what they say: We're being secretive, bla bla bla... since when do we at /. entertain secrecy!?
I mean, if you can't make it open source, well firstly it means you're going to have a lot of bugs in your code and no one to fix them for you. And 2) You won't have a cool "endangered species" animal logo with an african name as your project title!

So well, let's not even post such lame claims! It wastes time.

MORONS! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957412)

GRAPHICS DO NOT MAKE A GOOD GAME!

They can add to a good game. But when the focus is entirely on graphics. We get crap like... well... the last 10 years here. shallow, lame, sloppy, lowest common denominator gameplay / big ass movie on rails.

Stop fucking doing it already! damm...

relax guys (1)

sluggie (85265) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957470)

We've had this discussion some time ago.. and from what I remember it came out that the procedural creation of "atoms" is kinda powerful and scalable, but will inherently not allow any kind of collision detection and/or animation.

so basically, yes, this can be used to create a very detailed static world.

It's all instancing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36957482)

Sure the trees look great, but they're all the same tree.
The statues look great, but they're all the same statue.
The scanned rocks look great, but they're the same 3 or 4 rocks rotated in different directions.

The Achilles heel here seems to be that you can do a lot of detail but not a lot of diversity.

2 Million AUD$ (1)

aaaaaaargh! (1150173) | more than 3 years ago | (#36957486)

First of all, I have nothing against the government spending money on computer game graphics engines, in fact I think such money is wisely spent (more wisely than most defense projects, at least). However, out of sheer curiosity I'd like to know how a small software company can get 2 million AUD$ government funding?

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