If you recall from earlier this year, there was some fairly significant buzz about something called Unlimited Detail. Notch thought it was a scam, John Carmack thought it was promising but not practical, and I, personally, had my doubts as well. I mean, to promise an infinitely high amount of graphical fidelity for video games? That just sounds ridiculous.
However, that’s what Australia-based technology company Euclideon and its CEO Bruce Dell are trying to get people to believe. Unlimited Detail, in contrast to conventional 3D graphics engines, utilizes volumetric pixels, or voxels. These can most easily be though of as 3D pixels. Imagine a Q*bert stage but all those blocks form a car or tree in a video game. By using a pixel-to-voxel search algorithm, the engine can recognize how many or few of these voxels need to be processed, thus maintaining detail, frame rate, and draw distance.
Dell is claiming, though, that they can handle 1,000,000 atoms per cubic inch, and that their technology can even run on phones with no discrete GPU necessary. These are big words from a new and relatively unknown company. They’re essentially claiming to have laid the golden egg on graphics engines technology, an industry decades old and seemingly robust, from a goose that never even went to college (Dell is a self-taught computer science enthusiast).
The obvious criticism with the original video is that everything is repeated throughout the environment. Whether due to memory limitations or processing requirements for transforming multiple textures on a vast number of differing objects in less-than-optimal ways, it was a source of doubt for many viewers. Dell addresses this and more with GameInformer.
He even addresses some critics directly and, on the occasion, somewhat aggressively (e.g., Minecraft’s Notch) and throws out some impressive numbers: the entire island demo, if rendered in traditional polygonal fashion, would be somewhere around 21 trillion polygons (42 trillion since the water reflection is actually a blue-tinted duplicate). Most modern games draw well under one million at any given time.
It’s a long read at six pages, but it’s well worth it. I still have my doubts and take everything Dell says with a shovel full of salt, but that may just be the pragmatic scientist in me talking. I need to see, test, and break the thing myself to believe. The writer Adam Matthew seems to have come away impressed, though, but what do you think? Scam or legit? I want to see some shaders (or whatever the voxel equivalent is) and physics/animation implemented in their next demo.