Sony and Microsoft’s Latest Consoles Take Computer Graphics to the Next Level

Xbox and Playstation Consoles
Xbox Series S and Series X, left, and PlayStation 5, right. (Image by: Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp.)

The technology behind video games is serious business. Beyond driving a multibillion-dollar industry, consumer demand for realistic graphics and three-dimensional physics is major force in advancing computational capabilities. Those advances aren’t constrained to the world of entertainment; the lifelike digital snow Penn researchers developed for movies like Frozen can now be used to model real-world avalanches.

Sony and Microsoft released their latest home gaming consoles this week, pushing those graphics to new levels of verisimilitude.

At Penn Today, Brandon Baker spoke about what this new technology represents with computer graphics experts, including Stephen Lane, professor of practice in the Department of Computer and Information Science and director of the Computer Graphics and Game Technology Master’s program.

“Taking advantage of the new console capabilities, such as a 1 terabyte solid-state hard drive (SSD) and graphics capabilities that support real-time ray tracing, will enable developers in another year or two to create real-time game content that appears photo realistic,” says Stephen Lane, director of the Computer Graphics and Game Technology Master’s program in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Lane adds that the consoles’ ability to also output 8K screen resolutions—which is nearing the ceiling in terms of what the human retina can even perceive—also adds immense potential for the future. It is, he says, surreal to witness these developments as someone who has worked in computer graphics for decades.

“I got involved in computer graphics in the early ‘90s, and the things we are looking at now were just pipe dreams then. We’d say, ‘Someday, this stuff will be photo realistic and you’ll have things like real-time simulation of hair, cloth, and water!’ But we can do that today,” he says. “That’s today.”

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