ray tracing is a good thing

Imagine if you will, a laptop computer for which plugging in is optional, which is powered by fuel. Or a laptop that charges in three minutes and lasts for days at full power. Or one of those sonicare vibrating toothbrushes, the size of a regular toothbrush, that still last a full week without recharging. Feasible electric cars, capable of going as fast or faster than the cars we have right now. A camera that you don’t have to keep recharging every time you use it. James Bond-like equipment, like his magnetic climbing grapple; robots such as you might see in Ghost in the Shell or some other science-fiction.

All these things can and, if I may, will happen, soon after we make some real breakthroughs in portable power sources. A good marking point would be when you can power an SUV for a mile over flat ground with a device the size of a nalgene bottle. When we get to that (actually modest) goal, then we can start doing some cool things.

Imagine, if you will. Imagine a screen that sees where you are and projects the screen differently into each of your eyes. Like a window into another world, such a screen could show you anything, in beautiful, nearly flawless 3d. Or perhaps even a similar screen for which each pixel could change its appearance from every angle, as a tiny projector. Too much screen data to display state-of-the-art moving graphics from every angle, such a screen would still be perfect for static or slowly-changing scenery, sublimely beautiful from every angle. Given good enough eye targeting and a high degree of resolution and accuracy, such a screen could also display different images to each eye of a large number of people simultaneously. (Think of that, no more screen-looking!)

Retinal laser-projection displays, on the other hand, have even more potential. While they’re probably not practical for viewing by multiple people, the resolution and fine detail achievable is simply staggering.
We’re talking about the possibility of a resolution comparable to the actual native resolution of your retina itself. Not only that, but get this: you could actually detect the focus of the eye and change the displayed image accordingly. So essentially, it’s possible to construct a display nearly indistinguishable from normal real-life vision.

So that’s the science I was talking about. With display technology in mind, ray tracing is the future of graphics. Since it’s actual light simulation, for all practical purposes there is no limit to the amount of processing power you can pour into it before it stops improving.

And… do my eyes decieve me, or does Wikipedia have RSS feeds for every single page now? Actually, it appears to be an RSS feed for all of Wikipedia. I wonder what uses that could have.

edit: They do indeed have individual feeds for every single article, and several other things. See Wikipedia:Syndication for details.

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