Parallel Tessellation Engines

The last innovation that fundamentally altered 3D realism was pixel shading. The next great breakthrough is tessellation. The central feature of DirectX 11 and used in critically claimed games like Metro 2033, tessellation allows the game designer to utilize up to 10x more polygons in a scene while maintaining playable framerates. Tessellation enables a wide range of visual effects that has previously been out of reach such as:

  • Organic characters with perfectly smooth curves
  • Super fine surface detail such as thorns, nails, and skin aberrations
  • Vast terrain rendering with complex geometric detail
  • Dynamic level of detail with seamless transitions

Based on NVIDIA’s revolutionary Fermi architecture, GeForce GTX 400 series GPUs handles tessellation unlike any other GPU. Instead of using a single, serial unit for tessellation, GeForce GTX 400 GPUs performs tessellation across up to fifteen parallel engines. The result is a breakthrough in tessellation performance—up to 1.6 billion triangles per second, or 8x over the nearest competing GPU.

After a coarse model (left) goes through tessellation, a smooth model is produced (middle). When displacement mapping is applied (right), characters approach film-like realism. © Kenneth Scott, id Software 2008

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NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround

NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround dramatically expands both the width and depth of the gaming experience. NVIDIA 3D Vision combines high-tech wireless 3D glasses and advanced software that automatically transforms over 400 PC games into full stereoscopic 3D. The added third dimension breathes new life into classic titles such as Unreal Tournament 3 and completely transforms new, 3D optimized titles such as Battlefield Bad Company 2 and Metro 2033.

When NVIDIA 3D Vision is extended to surround mode, the game can be played across three monitors, enabling a vast field of view. In first person shooters, enemies on the flanks can be spotted ahead of time. In flight simulators, a full virtual cockpit with side windows can be experienced. With a combination of 3D and surround, NVIDIA 3D Vision Surround provides the most immersive gaming experience of any platform to date.

NVIDIA Surround combines multiple displays to act as one larger display to create a panoramic view
in 3D games.

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Realtime Raytracing

Considered by many as the holy grail of graphics, ray tracing produces images with perfect reflections and refractions, accurate shadows, and photorealistic lighting. It is the rendering technique of choice for graphics professionals, but up until now, it has been limited to non-realtime applications. Thanks to Fermi’s advanced compute architecture, GeForce GTX 400 GPUs are able to perform raytracing in realtime, at up to 15 frames per second. For even higher visual realism, the GPU can also perform pathtracing for true global illumination. The result are images so refined that they are indistinguishable from scenes in computer generated films.


A Bugatti Veyron rendered with path tracing using NVIDIA OptiX technology. OptiX integrates easily with game engines, allowing racing games to leverage ray tracing for near-photorealistic glamour shots in gallery mode.

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PhysX is the only physics API that taps into the power of GPU for physics computation. Used by the ubiquitous Unreal Engine, PhysX has been at the forefront in bringing physically simulated effects to games. In Batman: Arkham Asylum, PhysX was used to create interactive smoke, rigid bodies, and debris. In Dark Void, PhysX modeled the complex turbulence effects of the jetpack. In Mirror’s Edge, fully destructible glass environments were created for the first time using PhysX.

Behind PhysX is the power of the GPU. With Fermi, we set out to push the boundaries of GPU physics even further. Not only did we double the number of CUDA cores, we designed a new cache architecture that provides enormous on-chip bandwidth. The result is greatly improved performance and efficiency. Physical simulations with over a hundred particles can be achieved in realtime. PhysX titles like Dark Void perform up to twice as fast as previous generation GPUs.

PhysX simulates smoke using detailed fluid dynamics models. Complex effects such as turbulence are depicted with incredible finesse and accuracy.

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