GPU

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Really, the title says it all, the book GPU Pro 5 is shipping. Sadly, there’s no “Look Inside” for the book on Amazon; I’ll hope they at least put the Table of Contents there. You can find a rough Table of Contents on the CRC site; rough in that you can’t see the number of pages for each article. A few articles are quite lengthy: Physically Base Area Lights is 34 pages long, Hi-Z Screen-Space Cone-Traced Reflections is an incredible 44. The rest are in the 10-20 page range.

You can get a taste of the book at the GPU Pro blog, it has previews of a large number of the articles. At $70 this is not a casual purchase, but if you’re a practitioner and just one article saves you 2 hours, the book’s more than paid for itself.

Me, I was amused to see the following, a model from Morgan McGuire’s high-quality model repository – hey, that’s from our world! (And you thought I was done with Minecraft references here.)

VoxeliaMC

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There will be a Birds of a Feather gathering at SIGGRAPH 2010 about GPU Ray Tracing: Wednesday, 4:30-6 pm, Room 301 A.

A brief description from Austin Robison: We won’t have a projector or desktop machines set up, but please feel free to bring your laptops to show off what you’ve been working on! Additionally, I’ve created a Google Group mailing list that I hope we can use, as a community, to share insights and ask questions about ray tracing on GPUs not tied to any specific API or vendor. Please sign up and share your news, experiences and ideas: http://groups.google.com/group/gpu-ray-tracing.

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Today at the GPU Technology Conference (the successor to last year’s NVISION), NVIDIA announced Fermi, their new GPU architecture (exactly one week after AMD shipped the first GPU from their new Radeon HD 5800 architecture).  NVIDIA have published a Fermi white paper, and writeups are popping up on the web.  Of these, the ones from Real World Technologies and AnandTech seem most informative.

With this announcement, NVIDIA is focusing firmly on the GPGPU market, rather than on graphics.  No details of the graphics-specific parts of the chip (such as triangle rasterizers and texture units) were even mentioned.  The chip looks like it will be significantly more expensive to manufacture than AMD’s chip, and at least some of that extra die area has been devoted to things which will not benefit most graphics applications (such as improved double-precision floating-point support and more general programming models).  With full support for indirect branches, a unified address space, and fine-grained exception handling, Fermi is as general purpose as it gets.  NVIDIA is even adding C++ support to CUDA (the first iterations of OpenCL and DirectCompute will likely not enable the most general programming models).

Compared to their previous architecture, NVIDIA has shuffled around the allocation of ALUs, thread scheduling units, and other resources.  To make sense of the soup of marketing terms such as “warps”, “cores”, and “SMs”,  I again recommend Kayvon Fatahalian’s SIGGRAPH 2009 presentation on GPU architecture.

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  • Books, books, and more books: I received review copies of two books. Best of Game Programming Gems is as it sounds, certainly cheaper than buying the seven books in this series, no real review needed (look inside). Game Engine Architecture is about just that, how to make a professional-grade game rendering system, from soup to nuts (you can look inside). Eberly’s two books are the previous notable works in this area, but are quite different than this new volume. While they focus almost exclusively on algorithms, this book attempts to cover the whole task of developing an engine: what to use for source control, dealing with memory management and in-game profiling, input devices, SIMD, and many other practical topics. There is also algorithmic coverage of rendering, animation, collision detection and physics, among other areas. Naturally, the amount of information on each area is limited by page count (the book’s a solid 860 pages), but in my brief skim it looks like most of the critical areas and concepts are touched on. You won’t become an expert in any one area from this volume, but it looks like you’ll have some reasonably deep understanding of the elements that go into making a game engine. Quite an impressive work, and I know of nothing else in this area that is so detailed. I hope I get a chance to read it (who am I fooling? Though I do wish I had the time…) – well, at the least, it’s a place I’ll first go if I want to learn about a topic in game development that I know little about. If you’d rather wax nostalgic about great game engines you have known, as well as what the state of the are is, this article is for you (oh, yeah, the author of this new book works at the company that made #3).
  • Looking around for titles I’d like to look over at SIGGRAPH, I found these: Game Graphics ProgrammingProgramming the Cell Processor: For Games, Graphics, and ComputationIntroduction to 3D Game Programming with DirectX 10Ultimate Game Programming with DirectX, 2nd Ed., Advanced Game ProgrammingGame Coding Complete. Which all sort of sound the same (except for the Cell book), but I’d be happy to page through each and see if it looks promising.
  • There’s a worthwhile comparison of average vertex normal computation methods on the MeshLab blog. He gives the nod to Thürmer and Wüthrich’s method. You can try each of the three using MeshLab itself.
  • Sure, Spore didn’t light the world on fire as many of us hoped, but a lot of cool technology was explored. Chris Hecker has a worthwhile rundown of some of the great stuff they worked on.
  • There are some surprisingly affordable 3D stereolithography objects available on Shapeways. I bought Spiral Cage (tiny, but impressive, and so cheap), Clematis (looks delicate, but is quite springy), and Gyroid (pricier, but more sizeable and a fun form). It’s great to see so many people exploring such areas; here’s a detailed summary of resources. Even if you never plan on getting involved, the Flickr area dedicated to such techniques is worth a browse.
  • This one amused me: a cloud computing company had a contest that was meant to show off Ruby and cloud computing strengths. It was won by people brute-forcing the problem with GPUs: 16 used by the first-place winner (plus 117 CPU cores, which had less performance total than the 16 GPUs), 4 by the second. Steve Worley and others talk about the GPU approach on the CUDA forum (his program, shared with the community there, was used to win second place).
  • I admire the dedication.

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