Did Man Really Land on the Moon? Find Out with NVIDIA's Maxwell GPU Powered Apollo 11 Demo

VXGI, Demos

At one point or another, you’ve probably heard someone say the moon landing was faked. That person might have been sincere, or might have accompanied such a statement with an eye roll, but either way, it’s something that gets said. The people at NVIDIA were looking for a memorable way to showcase its new GPU architecture, Maxwell, so they decided to tackle that particular conspiracy theory and offer new proof that the photograph depicting the moon landing is genuine.

“Our software provides proof that the iconic photograph is authentic,” writes Brian Caulfield in a company blog post. “In a demo powered by Epic’s Unreal Engine 4 and Maxwell, we showed how light from the moon’s surface—and astronaut Neil Armstrong’s space suit—illuminated Aldrin.”

NVIDIA is offering those who purchased the Maxell-based GeForce GTX 980 and GeForce GTX 970 GPUs the opportunity to try the demo for themselves. If you are such a person, you can download it here and run it on your machine, shifting cameras around, or the location of the sun, or even adjusting the camera exposure.

“Our demo hinges on one of the key technologies unleashed by Maxwell and Epic’s Unreal Engine 4,” Caulfield explains. “VXGI—or Voxel Global Illumination—shows the way light bounces from one object to another in real time. To do that, VXGI breaks a scene’s geometry into many thousands of tiny boxes called ‘voxels,’ or 3D pixels.”

Once the geometry is converted to those boxes, the GPU is able to determine transparency level, as well as what color of light might reasonably be expected to reflect from other objects in a scene. These are the sort of calculations that have to be possible and practical before we’ll ever see photo-realistic worlds crafted by game developers and artists.

“To be sure,” adds Caufield, “satisfying those who think the Apollo 11 landings are a hoax will take more than software.” He quotes Timothy Melley, a professor at Miami University of Ohio, who has taken a long look at paranoia in America. There are reasons people latch onto conspiracy theories, and those folks aren’t necessarily even crazy or foolish for doing it.

“So we won’t convince everyone,” Caufield admits. “But with our demo, we’re putting the power to come up with a better explanation into the hands of millions of people.”

If you’d like a chance to play around with a model that comes straight out of the history books, and if you have the appropriate NVIDIA hardware, definitely take a look at the demo. See if you agree that another conspiracy theory has been successfully debunked.

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