Nvidia Aims For A 3-D Cloud With RealityServer 3.0

RealityServer 3.0 doesn't quite deliver the real-time 3-D goods yet. A demo Nvidia showed at the launch presentation in San Francisco took several seconds to render changes to a computer-generated office-space scene being processed via RealityServer 3.0. But the same computing task would take two hours to accomplish on existing platforms, the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company claimed.

The upshot for Nvidia is what it hopes will be an attractive product suite for cloud-computing providers and the OEMs, system integrators and software developers that support such hosting companies, said Dan Vivoli, head of Nvidia's Professional Solutions Group.

RealityServer 3.0 combines a server appliance stocked with eight of Nvidia's high-end Tesla graphics cards and 3-D Web services software from Mental Images, an Nvidia subsidiary acquired in 2007. The RealityServer 3.0 platform updates an existing Mental Images product line with the Nvidia subsidiary's Iray photo-realistic rendering technology and is targeted at GPU-based cloud-computing environments, Vivoli said.

Mental Images' Iray software provides "fully accurate global illumination simulation" via a blending of OpenGL coding and ray-traced rendering achieved with Nvidia's proprietary CUDA programming language, according to Mental Images CEO Rolf Herken.

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ABOVE: No, it's not a photograph. This photo-realistic, computer-generated scene was rendered on Nvidia's new Tesla-based RealityServer 3.0 with Iray software from Mental Images.

For example, in the office-space demo, rather than using programming tricks to simulate how light reflects off surfaces, the Iray engine actually calculated how the sunlight from a window bounces off a reflective floor and illuminates parts of the room that are not directly lit.

Nvidia's Tesla GPUs crunched through those algorithms in seconds flat for the demo and the whole RealityServer package delivered a streaming, interactive version out of the cloud to devices as small as an Apple iPhone.

Vivoli and Herken promoted several potential cloud-based applications for RealityServer 3.0. On the commercial side, possibilities include the quick exchange of photo-realistic manufacturing and product design 3-D image files between workers in disparate locations.

Meanwhile, consumers tapping into the high-fidelity graphics engine over the Web could manipulate, compare and tailor virtual products to their liking, they added.