[Interview] Realistic Graphics in Real-Time: Samsung Experts Explain Ray Tracing for the Galaxy S23 Series
As the popularity of smartphones has increased, so too has the popularity of mobile games in the mainstream gaming market. Today, more and more consumers want to experience their PC and console games with brilliant graphics on their mobile devices, driving up the expectations for smartphone gaming performance.
The Galaxy S23 series, Samsung Electronics’ flagship smartphone unveiled on February 1, boasts the best and most powerful GPU, which enhances performance by 41% compared to the previous version, and Ray Tracing, which brings true-to-life lighting to mobile gaming, have gained the attention of gamers worldwide.
Samsung Newsroom sat down with the developers of Ray Tracing, recently introduced to the Galaxy S23 series, to understand the story behind how the team upgraded the mobile gaming experience. Read on to learn more about one of the biggest leaps in smartphone gaming graphics in years.
Ray Tracing: Level Up Your Gaming Experience With True-to-Life Graphics
Ray Tracing is the latest rendering method that manifests graphic effects in real time by tracing rays of light. The Galaxy S23 series’ GPU is equipped with special-purpose hardware to accelerate these ray tracing simulations similar to a desktop GPU, displaying shadows and light reflections in mobile games in a much more realistic manner.
System Platform Development Group’s Jungwoo Kim, who managed the GPU development for the Galaxy S23 series, described Ray Tracing technology as “the ultimate graphic rendering method.”
“Ray Tracing is a complex simulation that traces how the optic nerve of an eye receives a ray of light after being reflected, refracted or diffracted by an object,” said Kim. “It’s very similar to how light is actually processed.”
“The previous rasterization technique is limited, resulting in awkward and inaccurate expressions,” said Joonyong Park, who managed GPU technical support and both internal and external cooperation for this new product. “When it comes to the shadow effect, for instance, the previous method used to project an object on a scene to create a shadow map in advance and adjust that on the object again. On the other hand, Ray Tracing simulates the actual effect of how shadows are formed, which appears accurately and realistically onscreen — so users can enjoy more natural-looking graphics.”
Bridging the Gap Between Desktop and Mobile Graphics With the Galaxy S23 Series
Since 2010, Samsung has focused on breaking down the barriers between console, desktop and mobile by expanding the performance and range of its graphics API (application programming interface). By partnering with major industry players, Samsung has led the way in standardizing its latest technology as the common API. In doing so, more companies can easily apply the latest technology to more games and expand their relevant ecosystems.
“In 2016, we standardized the next-generation graphics API called Vulkan released by the Khronos Group and succeeded in commercialization through the Galaxy S7,” said Kim. “But, we’ve been working on advanced GPU development with partners like Epic Games and Unity to optimize the performance of Android games since 2015, before Vulkan was integrated into Galaxy devices. The optimization code we acquired by working together was provided to game developers first and made the successful case for Vulkan and engine optimization. The achievement was presented at various developer conferences.”
In line with the recent rising trends in cross-platform games, Samsung rapidly applied desktop GPU technology to their mobile GPU. “With close cooperation with the AP vendors, we’ve continued to improve the performance of the latest mobile GPU for flagship products,” said Park. “With the rise in consumers demanding that the graphic quality on their mobile devices matches the quality of consoles, we’ve been preparing to offer Ray Tracing technology in mobile game engines since two years ago,” he said, describing his team’s proactive effort to lead this mobile innovation.
Multi-Player Collaboration Driving Mobile Performance
The developers cooperated with Samsung R&D Institute Ukraine (SRUKR) and various partner companies, including Epic Games, the developer of Unreal Engine, to prepare the best graphics.
Kim explained that the demo contents introduced at the Galaxy Unpacked 2023 were a team effort. “This is an area that we’ve been working on in collaboration with a game engine developer and game developers,” said Kim. “We kept making various attempts for efficient rendering. As a result, we were able to overcome challenges by reducing the number of computations while maintaining the same level of quality.”
Park also shared an episode from when he was working on the Galaxy S7 product development.
“I remember developing a content demonstration at the Epic Games head office in North Carolina in the U.S.,” said Park. “We successfully rendered a demo game where a chicken character appeared using the Vulkan API for the first time. As soon as the chicken character appeared for the first time after fixing an error, everyone from Epic Games, SRUKR and colleagues from MX R&D team all cheered. Then, we all celebrated with a dinner party, where we all ate fried chicken.” Park thanked his colleagues with whom he had worked so hard to achieve this feat.
Galaxy S23 Series Opens a New Paradigm for Mobile Gaming
So what does the future look like in which Ray Tracing technology is commercialized? “From now on, I expect the pipeline of creating and consuming graphic content to change in a way that is aligned with Ray Tracing,” said Park. “In this process, we expect that mobile devices with both portability and high-performance hardware on par with consoles will contribute to the changes.”
“You can certainly expect an eye-catching gaming experience,” said the developers of Ray Tracing, speaking to the fans looking forward to the new Galaxy flagship’s gaming performance. The developers also shared their plans to use this technology widely, starting with the Galaxy S23 series.
“Ray Tracing technology is now only starting to go mobile. Since Samsung has been researching and preparing this technology for a long time, our company will lead the industry and quickly expand this technology,” said Kim. “Our next goal is to find the optimal method to apply Ray Tracing in many mobile devices and provide a great gaming experience to the users.”
“The mobile games that support Ray Tracing aren’t available in the market yet, but if there’s a game company that shows an interest in new mobile GPU technology, it will be more than welcome,” said Park. When asked about the future of mobile gaming performance, Park replied that they were “working very hard to apply Ray Tracing technology to more mobile games.”
The developers’ long-term vision is to present even more immersive mobile gaming experiences with realistic graphics in the future.
Watch the video below to learn more about Ray Tracing technology on the Galaxy S23 series.