ARM brings ray tracing to Android devices

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Arm has announced its new flagship GPU Immortalis, the first of its kind to include hardware-based ray tracing on mobile.

As PC and the latest Xbox Series X and PS5 consoles gradually move toward ray-tracing visuals, the Immortalis-G715 is designed to be the first GPU from Arm to do the same across Android phones and tablets.

Immortalis is built on Mali, the graphics processing unit used by the likes of Mediatek and Samsung. The company took into account the presence of between 10 and 16 cores. Arm also promises a 15% increase over the previous generation of premium Mali GPUs.

The company sees Immortalis as the beginning of the transition to mobile ray tracing after its success with 8 billion Mali GPUs shipped so far.

The challenge is that ray tracing technologies can use a significant amount of charge, computing power, and space across a mobile phone system on a chip.

However, ray tracing via Immortalis-G715 uses 4% of the base shading area. While it delivers more than 300% performance improvements through hardware acceleration.

And it’s unclear if the 3x acceleration on software-based ray tracing might be enough to entice game developers. But when NVIDIA introduced the ray tracing-accelerated hardware in the RTX 2080, it announced a 2- to 3-fold boost in that time.

The technology may be useful in augmented reality applications where ray tracing can be used to match virtual lighting with the real world environment around you.

And Arm introduces software-based ray tracing on the Mali-G710. But the promise of hardware support means seeing flagship smartphones with this chip at the beginning of 2023.

Samsung also announced the Exynos 2200 chip with hardware-based ray tracing earlier this year. As a result, manufacturers are preparing for the arrival of toys.

Arm’s first GPU

Arm has decided to offer hardware-based radiology support now via the Immortalis-G715 because partners and hardware are ready. And the developer ecosystem is about to get ready.

The company offers two examples of ray tracing via its new mobile GPUs. There is no clear commitment from any game developers yet.

The company believes this technology has a strong position, but it is taking some time, indicating that we could see some interesting mobile experiences over the next year or so.

Arm also has an update to the main Mali line with the Mali-G715. This GPU includes variable rate shaders to enhance gaming performance and save mobile power.

And variable rate shading essentially shows the parts of the scene in the game that require more detail. As a result, the details in the background do not need the same amount of rendering processing.

And when variable rate shading was enabled on gaming content, the company saw improvements of up to 40% on frames per second.

Other improvements mean these new Arm GPUs see a 15% improvement in power efficiency over the previous Mali-G710 GPU introduced last year.

Epic Games supports the Immortalis GPU via its Unreal engine, along with MediaTek and Unity. But the real test is how many mobile game developers are implementing ray tracing. Arm says ray tracing uses the Vulkan API.

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