A CPU can replace a ray-tracing graphics card, but don’t ask about performance.

Rising numbers of modern games are featuring ray-tracing technology, but running this high-demand feature still requires powerful graphics cards. However, one developer has unveiled an alternative solution: enabling ray tracing on central processing units (CPUs). Though this solution is highly impractical, it is indeed a possibility.

Konstantin Seurer is engaged in developing new features for the open-source library Mesa based on Vulkan. His focus is on rendering graphics using CPU resources. The new VK_KHR_ray_query feature he is developing has made it possible to run ray tracing on a CPU. This was demonstrated on a specialized version of the classic game Quake 2 RTX. The developer did not disclose the hardware used for this project, but humorously noted “don’t ask about the performance”.

The game’s screenshot affirmed these words as the graphics processing unit’s workload was exactly as expected: zero percent. Simultaneously, the CPU, loaded at 34%, yielded one frame per second. Presumably, the 34% CPU load indicates that this game variant does not support multi-core architecture. While the developer’s proposed solution seems impractical, its test run will soon be available to all interested parties. The feature will be included in the Mesa 24.1 release.

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