GDC — In 2013, ARM invested in a company called Geomerics, which provides a middleware lighting engine for real-time graphics and games. This week, at the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco, ARM and Geomerics announced a new version of that lighting engine, Enlighten 3.
Enlighten is distinguished from other lighting algorithms by its ability to achieve what is more or less the holy grail of real-time graphics: global illumination with multiple bounces, essentially a simulation of how actual light acts in an environment. Of course, given the limits of current hardware, Enlighten has to take some shortcuts in order to achieve a reasonable fascimile of multi-bounce global illumination. Still, ARM says Enlighten can scale across multiple platforms and classes of hardware, from Windows-based desktop PCs to game consoles to Android mobile devices.
ARM's involvement in this space might seem like an odd fit, but lighting is one of the key fundamentals in graphics. ARM says Geomerics "influences and informs" its processor roadmaps, no doubt including the plans for its Mali GPUs, which are widely used in mobile devices these days. Nvidia, another contender in the GPU space, has its own global illumination middleware solution known as VXGI.
Enlighten is already the primary lighting routine for the popular Unity game engine, and it's available as a licensable option for Unreal Engine 4, as well. Version 3 of Enlighten adds a number of new features, including improved indirect lighting with certain types of geometry, support for richer simulated materials, and better transparency.
ARM and Geomerics have released a couple of demos showing Enlighten's new features in action. Here's real-time global illumination at work:
And this "Subway" demo shows a number other new features.
In addition to the integration with major game engines, Geomerics is also releasing a new lighting editor known as Forge that allows stand-alone editing and fast visualization of light environments.
Enlighten with Forge includes a software development kit, and Geomerics says its software is "already integrated into many leading in-house engines."