John Carmack is experimenting with a “sparse octree” data structure for accelerating 3D graphics rendering:
The direction that everybody is looking at for next generation, both console and eventual graphics card stuff, is a “sea of processors” model, typified by Larrabee or enhanced CUDA and things like that, and everybody is sort of waving their hands and talking about “oh we’ll do wonderful things with all this” but there is very little in the way of real proof-of-concept work going on. There’s no one showing the demo of like, here this is what games are going to look like on the next generation when we have 10x more processing power - nothing compelling has actually been demonstrated and everyone is busy making these multi-billion dollar decisions about what things are going to be like 5 years from now in the gaming world. I have a direction in mind with this but until everybody can actually make movies of what this is going to be like at subscale speeds, it’s distressing to me that there is so much effort going on without anybody showing exactly what the prize is that all of this is going to give us.
Second-best quote is that he wants lots of bit-twiddling operations- per-second to traverse the data structures rather than lots of floating-point- operations-per-second. Must be scary for the Larrabee and NVIDIA CPU architects to hear that, this late in their design cycles.
Hopefully John will come up with a cool demo that helps everyone understand whether his approach is a good one or not. Hopefully the Larrabee / NVIDIA architectures are flexible enough to cope. (Interestingly, no mention of ATI – have they bowed out of the high-end graphics race?)