During the past few years, ray tracing seems to have become the El Dorado of the real-time 3D world. The rendering technique sparked a peak of interest when a young researcher by the name of Daniel Pohl devoted a research project to the technology in 2004.
The reason the general public took an interest in his work is largely because Pohl chose to focus on id Software's famous Quake III, Quake IV, and Quake Wars 3D shooter game franchise. The researcher got a lot of media coverage and gamers began dreaming of a bright future in which their favorite titles would be ray traced and devoid of rasterization.
Intel soon became aware of the buzz and spotted an ideal way to justify increasing the number of cores in its processors. The company quickly started its own research program and now never misses an opportunity to remind us that ray tracing is the future of real-time 3D games. But is it, really? What technical realities lie behind the marketing hype? What are the real advantages of ray tracing? Can we really expect it to replace rasterization? We'll try to provide some answers to those questions.