Ever since Intel started talking about Larrabee, the concept of accelerating ray-tracing on graphics hardware has generated an increasing amount of buzz. Today, after six months of beta testing, Nvidia has introduced a free ray-tracing engine for workstation and servers with Quadro and Tesla GPUs.
The engine is called OptiX, and Nvidia's Mark Priscaro describes it like so:
As the world's first interactive ray tracing engine, OptiX leverages the massively parallel power of NVIDIA GPUs for maximum performance and scalability. In providing a programmable ray tracing pipeline, the OptiX engine gives developers great flexibility to accelerate their ray tracing applications, bringing previously unseen levels of interactivity to a wide range of uses. These include auto styling, design visualization and visual effects. It's also ideal for non-rendering disciplines, such as optical design, acoustical design and collision analysis.
OptiX "drastically shortens the development time required to create ray tracing apps," Priscaro adds, and it should see a great performance increase on Nvidia's next-generation Fermi graphics architecture. You'll be able to use OptiX on Fermi-based GeForces, as well.
In the meantime, Quadro and Tesla users can grab the OptiX development toolkit right here at Nvidia's Developer Zone. The SDK supports 32-bit and 64-bit iterations Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Linux.