Mobile chip manufacturer ARM is boosting its graphics abilities with the acquisition of gaming visuals specialist Geomerics, developer of a time- and processor-saving 3D lighting system. The technology, Enlighten, is already used in Battlefield 4, Need for Speed Rivals, EVE Online, and Medal of Honor: Warfighter, and will enable "photo realistic graphics in mobile" ARM says, introducing elements like compound reflections, shadows, and refractions, which would previously have demanded excessive coding time and heavy-duty chipsets to carry it out.
For instance, using Enlighten, it's possible to set up a digital light source - whether that be artificial lighting, the sun, or a candle - and then have the Geomerics engine automatically adjust the shadows and reflections from it across the scene. As the scene changes, such as a character moving around the 3D environment or the light source itself changing position, such as a sun gradually setting, those light effects automatically adjust, without requiring individual rendering.
As a result, the time required to add more advanced lighting is significantly reduced, which means more immersive, realistic environments. Similar advantages could be had in 3D movie and animation rendering, where lighting could be left to the system to figure rather than being manually programmed.
By acquiring Geomerics, ARM will be able to integrate the technology into its mobile chipsets, giving manufacturers who use the architecture an advantage for mobile and console gaming. For Geomerics, COO Chris Doran says, the deal means a greater likelihood that Enlighten will be found in more devices and gain popularity with developers.
However, it's not just mobile gaming that could benefit. ARM chips are also found in consoles, though the company has struggled to compete with its desktop graphics rivals when it comes to finding a spot in the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, but more advanced 3D rendering could help tip the market in ARM's direction.
An added bonus might be increased power frugality, too, with ARM processors generally less demanding in terms of energy requirements than their siblings with origins in PCs.
ARM and Geomerics declined to reveal the terms of the agreement, which will see Geomerics operate as an independent subsidiary.