Vulkan 1.3.245 Brings New NVIDIA Vendor Extension To Help Optimize Ray-Tracing

Written by Michael Larabel in Vulkan on 28 March 2023 at 06:28 AM EDT. 13 Comments
The Vulkan 1.3.245 extension is a small update to this industry-standard graphics/compute API with just a handful of issues resolved but it does introduce one new extension, which is a NVIDIA vendor extension aiming to further enhance Vulkan ray-tracing.

NVIDIA's new extension with Vulkan 1.3.245 is VK_NV_displacement_micromap, which for Vulkan ray-tracing can help with added detail in a memory efficient manner. The VK_NV_displacement_micromap spec sums up the new extension as:
"Ray tracing can very efficiently render from geometry which has very fine detail, but when using only a basic triangle representation, memory consumption can be an issue.

This extension adds the ability to add a "displacement map" to add more detail to triangles in an acceleration structure with an efficient in-memory format.

The format is externally visible to allow the application to compress its internal geometry representations into the compressed format ahead of time. This format adds displacements along a defined vector to subtriangle vertices which are subdivided from the main triangles."

VK_NV_displacement_micromap allows a displacement micromap structure to be attached to the geometry of the acceleration structure. As of Vulkan 1.3.245, this is just backed by NVIDIA and is also marked as a provisional extension that is subject to change. It will be interesting to see if other GPU vendors / driver developers get onboard with supporting this extension for potentially more efficient detailed Vulkan ray-tracing.

All of the details can be found via the v1.3.245 spec update. This extension is supported by the NVIDIA 525.47.14 Vulkan driver beta that NVIDIA released last week. They also issued a 525.47.15 update after that to improve the VK_NV_displacement_micromap support so it works better with prior generations of NVIDIA GeForce RTX GPUs.
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