Geomerics' Enlighten 3 engine aims to create photorealistic in-game lighting

This ARM subsidiary develops tools that developers use to make their games look more realistic.

A computer-generated camera perched on a table looked very, very close to real, in part because of the way light reflected off its surfaces. About the only tipoff that it was constructed within a computer was the omnipresent, dynamic depth of field effects that altered the scene’s focus every few seconds.

A computer-generated camera perched on a table looked very, very close to real, in part because of the way light reflected off its surfaces. About the only tipoff that it was constructed within a computer was the omnipresent, dynamic depth of field effects that altered the scene’s focus every few seconds.

Some artists are said to paint with light. Geomerics, an ARM subsidiary that develops dynamic lighting technology, helps game developers do just that. Today the company released its third-generation product -- Enlighten 3 -- along with a new Forge development tool.

ARM is widely known as the designer of the processor cores that power most of the world's smartphones. But ARM thinks of itself as an intellectual-property supplier, and Geomerics is a tool to better understand what game designers want. That, in turn, shapes its own graphics core development.

Enlighten 3 contains new features such as more accurate indirect lighting, color separated directional output, improved light map baking, and richer material properties. The idea, however, is to iterate toward something that the eye considers photorealistic.

One demo did just that: A computer-generated camera perched on a table looked very, very close to real, in part because of the way light reflected off its surfaces. About the only tipoff that it was constructed within a computer was the omnipresent, dynamic depth of field effects that altered the scene's focus every few seconds.

ARM and Geomerics also released a "subway" demo featuring translucent screens and dynamic lighting effects. Geomerics chief executive Gary Lewis cheerfully explained that most of the company's lighting technologies were designed with an eye toward "blowing things up."

The Forge development provides a customizable foundation for integrating Enlighten into any development pipeline, thanks to import functionality from Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, Geomerics said.

While the subway and camera demos were performed on PC hardware (rendered by an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780), ARM also showed off the lighting engine on its circa 2013 graphics chip, the Mali T760.

Why this matters: Photorealism attracts the eye. The eye talks to the brain, and convinces it to buy a smartphone or tablet with the chip inside. Enlighten 3 might not change your life, but it might change your next game.

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Mark Hachman

PC World (US online)
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