Review and Comparative Study of Ray Traversal Algorithms on a Modern GPU Architecture

A.L. dos Santos, U.F.P.E. Center, A.J. Anibal, C. Universitária, V. Teichrieb, J. Lindoso
Voxar Labs – Informatics Center, UFPE Av. Jornalista Anibal Fernandes, s/n Cidade Universitária, Brazil 50740-560, Recife, Pernambuco


   title={Review and Comparative Study of Ray Traversal Algorithms on a Modern GPU Architecture},

   author={dos Santos, Artur Lira and Center, UFPE and Anibal, Av Jornalista and Universit{‘a}ria, Cidade and Teichrieb, Veronica and Lindoso, Jorge}


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In this paper we present a chronological review of five distinct data structures commonly found in literature and ray tracing systems: Bounding Volume Hierarchies (BVH), Octrees, Uniform Grids, KD-Trees, and Bounding Interval Hierarchies (BIH). This review is then followed by an extensive comparative study of six different ray traversal algorithms implemented on a modern Kepler CUDA GPU architecture, to point out pros and cons regarding performance and memory consumption of such structures. We show that a GPU KD-Tree ray traversal based on ropes achieved the best performance results. It surpasses the BVH, often used as primary structure on state-of-the-art ray tracers. A carefully well implemented ropes based KD-Tree CUDA traversal can improve performance on a 12-39% approximate range. This suggests that, for critic real time applications, the ropes based KD-Tree traversal is a more adequate option on GPU. However, this structure consumes at least 4x more memory space than BVHs and BIHs. This disadvantage can be a limiting factor on memory limited architectures.
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