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ATI Unveils SMARTSHADER Technology

(July 17, 2001)
ATI Technologies Inc. has introduced SMARTSHADER technology, the company's next-generation graphics architecture that the company says will narrow the gap in visual quality between the big screen and the computer screen by giving game developers the most advanced visual effects available on PC or Mac-based platforms.

The company says it has incorporated suggestions from 3D application developers and researchers and has collaborated with Microsoft to improve the versatility, efficiency and usability of the existing Microsoft DirectX 8.0 Pixel Shader and Vertex Shader specifications. This, the company says, will enable 3D game developers to custom-program and then create the finely-detailed and realistically-lit computer-generated images.

The results of these efforts are available to developers for the first time with the release of DirectX 8.1, which enables the full capabilities of SMARTSHADER technology. The full feature set is also available in OpenGL, using ATI-developed extensions.

SMARTSHADER technology incorporates advances in the area of Pixel Shaders, which are small programs that execute on every pixel rendered to the display device. With support for up to six textures in a single rendering pass, the memory bandwidth constraints associated with multi-pass rendering can be greatly reduced, which translates into better rendering performance, the company said. By doubling the maximum allowable length of the shader programs, more complex effects can be created to accurately model the visual properties of materials and surfaces, including hair, skin, wood, water and more. Additionally, the company said, SMARTSHADER Pixel Shaders introduce a more powerful instruction set that enables developers to design a wider range of graphical effects with fewer operations.

SMARTSHADER technology also supports Vertex Shaders, which are small programs that are executed on the vertices that form the building blocks of all 3D objects. These shaders can modify the shape and position of objects and are useful for handling advanced character animation, objects that bend and ripple like cloth or water, and particle effects like sparks and rain.
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Related Keywords:3d animation, realism, OpenGL, Direct X, game development

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