Nvidia CloudLight: Faster Lighting Using Cloud Computing

Nvidia CloudLight: Faster Lighting Using Cloud Computing

Nvidia CloudLight: Faster Lighting Using Cloud Computing


Remember when Microsoft raved about the Xbox One’s cloud rendering capabilities? To partially offset the fact that they will have weaker GPU interference than Sony’s GPU on the PlayStation 4, Microsoft is using 300,000 servers to support “latency-insensitive computing” processing. Now that Nvidia just released CloudLight, it sounds a bit similar.

Nvidia published a technical report on CloudLight on its website outlining what it means for gaming. They call it “a system for computing indirect lighting in the cloud to support real-time rendering of interactive 3D applications on the user’s local device”. In practice, this means that Nvidia can use GeForce GRID servers to calculate the game engine’s global illumination to lighten the load on your gaming device of choice.

This seems to be key – CloudLight is designed to work across tablet, laptop and desktop gaming platforms, and adapts how it works based on the device you’re using. Gaming rigs, for example, will use photons to represent global illumination, which requires more hardware than Nvidia’s irradiance maps for tablets. Both will still use cloud-based computing to aid in level lighting, but higher quality options will require a higher powered PC.

Lighting is a useful process for migrating to the cloud, as lighting lag is far less noticeable than other game elements like sound or physics. In a video demo from Nvidia, they showed the effect of latency on moving light sources, and it wasn’t until well over 500ms that latency became an issue.

“We found that, empirically, coarse synchronization between direct and indirect light is necessary, and even latency from aggressive distributed cloud architectures is acceptable,” the technical report states.

One of the biggest concerns about this technology is what happens when we lose our connection to the cloud because it inevitably will – I’m looking at you [Dave’s ISP redacted]Nvidia claims that since indirect lighting is view independent, it is robust enough to withstand brief network outages. “In the worst case,” the report says, “the last known lighting is reused until the connection is restored, which is no worse than the pre-baked lighting found in many game engines today.”

For Nvidia, this sounds like a pretty neat way to work around the limitations of its current hardware when dealing with global illumination, especially on rigs with weaker graphics hardware. But what it will look like for developers to write code — and whether these Nvidia cloud services will still serve your games in a few years’ time — is still up for debate.

I have my own question for Nvidia, but what do you want to know about CloudLight?

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Wilbert Wood
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