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The Khronos Group has today announced that the cross-platform Vulkan graphics API now has official Ray Tracing support with their new provisional extensions.

Vulkan already had Ray Tracing support before with NVIDIA, as they had their own extensions which you could see working on titles like Quake II RTX (we showed it off here). Now though, after discussions and planning NVIDIA helped get it into Vulkan officially for all vendors to use in future.

"There has been strong developer demand for a truly cross-platform ray tracing acceleration API and now Vulkan Ray Tracing is here to meet that industry need," said Daniel Koch, senior graphics system software engineer at NVIDIA and Vulkan Ray Tracing task sub group chair at Khronos. "The overall architecture of Vulkan Ray Tracing will be familiar to users of existing proprietary ray tracing APIs, which enables straightforward porting of existing ray traced content, but this framework also introduces new functionality and implementation flexibility."

Slide Source: The Khronos Vulkan Ray Tracing presentation.

While it has a number of extensions across Vulkan, SPIR-V, and GLSL the primary one is VK_KHR_ray_tracing, which provides support for acceleration structure building and management, ray tracing shader stages and pipelines, and ray query intrinsics for all shader stages.

You can see the official press release here from The Khronos Group.

Linking in with that, as expected from NVIDIA they already have a Vulkan Beta Driver out and ready to try out with support for all of this. The Linux 440.66.02 driver can be found here with all this new:

In regards to the last point in the above list for "device-local VkMemoryType", NVIDIA said this could give a performance boost in some cases (especially for DXVK). Not a massive increase, mostly single digit percentage boost but some special cases are up to 10%. For all other driver support, you can follow their tracker on GitHub. For the open source Mesa drivers, I would expect support for Intel/AMD to arrive in one of the next major updates this year.

Keep in mind that the specification is provisional, meaning they're looking for feedback and plenty of tweaks and changes may come still. These can include breaking changes, so none of this should be used in production just yet until it's fully finalized.

Since the next generation of game consoles are coming close with Ray Tracing support, and AMD have their upcoming RDNA 2 based GPUs for PC which will feature Ray Tracing too we're likely getting close to a big uptick in the amount of games using it. With Vulkan being cross-platform across Linux, Windows, some consoles, macOS (via MoltenVK), mobiles and more that with official Ray Tracing perhaps more developers will opt for it. It's good news for Linux anyway.

Article taken from GamingOnLinux.com.
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18 comments
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F.Ultra 18 Mar
subIs this targeting dedicated RT hardware or generic compute resources?

That is up to the respective driver to decide, this is just to provide a common API to applications.
mirv 18 Mar
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mirvI'm going to guess there will need to be some level of hardware support for ray tracing (purely a guess on my part - I've not looked into the details yet).
Apparently it supports pure hardware raytracing, GPU compute, and (I may be imagining this part) even CPU. So it should work on anything, although good luck trying it without at least a half-decent non-RTX card.

Not sure about the pure CPU component, but then it might not have to rely on that if pretty much all Vulkan capable hardware supports compute (I don't think that's a requirement, but realistically it might end up being the case for ray tracing usage).

If compute does heavy lifting though, maybe we'll see some open source compute ray tracing shaders. I would hope such thing can exist, and would lessen the burden on driver developers. I do agree though, at least for now, dedicated hardware would provide quite a performance benefit. It's the only reason I can think of that nvidia have been pushing so hard for this to go into official Vulkan spec rather than just leaving it as custom extensions.
Shmerl 19 Mar
This article mentions, that Sony is going to support Vulkan on PlayStation 5: https://www.computerbase.de/2020-03/directx-12-ultimate/

Is it a valid claim?
mirv 19 Mar
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ShmerlThis article mentions, that Sony is going to support Vulkan on PlayStation 5: https://www.computerbase.de/2020-03/directx-12-ultimate/

Is it a valid claim?

Don't see the article mentioning that anywhere.

We do know that the PS5 is using RDNA2 though, and AMD will likely have kept Mantle around for just such an occasion. So perhaps the portability initiative could map some of Vulkan (like with MoltenVK), but I doubt that would happen much in practice.
Shmerl 19 Mar
mirvDon't see the article mentioning that anywhere.

It says:

QuoteDie PlayStation 5 unterstützt wenig verwunderlich kein DirectX 12 Ultimate, sondern setzt auf eine eigene API und alternativ Vulkan.

So it sounds go me like Sony could join Nintendo in supporting Vulkan on their consoles. If that's true, it would be a major blow to DX domination. I'd even say possibly a critical one.


Last edited by Shmerl on 19 March 2020 at 10:57 pm UTC
mirv 19 Mar
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mirvDon't see the article mentioning that anywhere.

It says:

QuoteDie PlayStation 5 unterstützt wenig verwunderlich kein DirectX 12 Ultimate, sondern setzt auf eine eigene API und alternativ Vulkan.

My German is a bit rusty, I had assumed they meant something that translates more as an alternative to, rather than as well as.
Still, portability initiative comment applies. It's RDNA2, so I highly doubt a Vulkan interface couldn't be made. As cool as it would be, I just don't think it would be used much.
Shmerl 19 Mar
I read it as "their own API and alternatively, Vulkan". Which makes it sound similar to Nintendo Switch situation.

Portability initiative and projects like gfx-rs might have a problem with targeting PS, because of NDAs. That always throws a wrench into open source projects. I hope consoles would stop using this dinosaur NDA approach from the last century, if they care about making things easier for developers.


Last edited by Shmerl on 19 March 2020 at 11:06 pm UTC
I wonder if Nvidia (or the person taking care of project) will enable this kind of support for Q2RTX. Because as it currently stands, the game runs on non RTX Cards such as the GTX 1060 at about 7fps but as soon as you try to run it with an AMD card it throws an error that "No Ray Tracing hardware found" which is kinda ironic since neither the 1060 has any RT features.
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