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AMD unveils TressFX Hair simulation technology

AMD unveils TressFX Hair simulation technology

AMD has announced TressFX Hair, developed with Crystal Dynamics to allow gamers the ability to render extremely realistic ponytails.

AMD has announced a partnership with Square Enix studio Crystal Dynamics under the Gaming Evolved programme that promises to bring gamers unprecedented realism in a hitherto neglected aspect of gaming: hair simulation.

No, really.

Announced this week, AMD's deal with Crystal Dynamics sees the company working to increase the realism of hair rendering in games to a level previously only possible with pre-rendered footage, by offloading the heavy lifting to the graphics processor using the DirectCompute offload language. The result is undeniably impressive: compared to the often solid-block hair of most game characters, hair rendered using the TressFX Hair engine - for that is the technology's name - is considerably more complex and dangles in an alarmingly realistic manner.

While we'd possibly question AMD's claim that the result is something previously only available to renderfarms creating pre-rendered video footage for cinema and cutscenes, there's no denying it's pretty. Sample shots posted to AMD's blog showcase the technology being used in the new Tomb Raider reboot to great effect, with the underlying promise being that hair fans are going to need AMD graphics hardware to experience the game to its full potential.

Of course, DirectCompute - part of Microsoft's DirectX package - isn't an AMD exclusive, but while Nvidia's latest graphics boards support the offload language in addition to the company's own CUDA early indications are that TressFX Hair is to be exclusive to AMD's Radeon boards. The reason, AMD claims, is utilisation of AMD-specific technologies, including order-independent transparency using per-pixel linked-list data structures to reduce the memory required for the simulation - an important aspect to allowing the rendering to be performed in real-time.

The DirectCompute portion of the TressFX system, meanwhile, performs the real-time physics calculations, treating each hair as a chain of links that allows the hair to move in a reasonably realistic manner - curving to fall over Lara Croft's shoulder, for example, or impacting on other strands rather than passing straight through. The engine also supports custom hairstyles, deforming the hair back to its original shape when the external force - a surface, gravity or wind - is removed.

Neither of those things, however, should prevent TressFX Hair from being compatible with rival Nvidia's graphics boards - and the company's PR-heavy unveil is notable in its lack of clarity. We've reached out to AMD in search of a simple answer to the question "is TressFX Hair exclusive to AMD Radeon hardware" and will keep you updated.

One thing, however, is clear: AMD is massively keen to push TressFX Hair as a big thing, and while we'd question how important realistic hair is to the overall gameplay experience - even in a third-person game, which by its very nature has you spending the majority of your experience staring at the lead character's ponytail - there's little doubt that extra realism is always welcomed.

UPDATE
As we suspected, AMD's press release has been very carefully worded. 'TressFX is not exclusive to AMD,' a spokesperson for the company has told us. 'It works on any DirectX11 card, similar to some other AMD-built technologies - for example Order-Independent Transparency (OIT) or High Definition Ambient Occlusion (HDAO).' Thus is the truth revealed: any DirectX11-capable graphics hardware, including those from rival Nvidia, will be able to make use of AMD's hair-rendering know-how.

Devon Nekechuck, product manager for high-end discrete desktop graphics at AMD, offers a bit more detail - and a sneaky plug for his company's GCN-based Radeon HD products: 'TressFX will definitely work on any DirectCompute-enabled device. This has roots in the core of Gaming Evolved, where we want to enable technology for all gamers, and not create proprietary features that lock out gamers that use our competitor's products. That said, TressFX is very computationally intensive, and hence games that use TressFX will really be able to benefit from high DirectCompute performance. Because of that, you will see Graphics Core Next-based GPUs excel when it's enabled.'

25 Comments

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greigaitken 26th February 2013, 11:36 Quote
I hope this wont be an exclusive to head hair - i want my muscly shirtless soldier to proudly boast some realistic chest hair too!
sotu1 26th February 2013, 11:39 Quote
I was thinking other hair....
greigaitken 26th February 2013, 12:01 Quote
sorry, my soldier waxes below
M_D_K 26th February 2013, 12:05 Quote
2 posts to get to smut lol.
Lenderz 26th February 2013, 12:09 Quote
Fully expect it to be exclusive and driver dependant/controlled, much like physx is on Nvidia cards, theres no reason it couldn't run on AMD cards, but both want a competitive advantage. Why should AMD enable this on Nvidia cards whilst Nvidia don't enable their tech they put their R&D time into on AMD cards.

There is a cost to developing these technologies and they recoup by shifting boxes.
Corky42 26th February 2013, 12:14 Quote
TRESemmé professional, affordable
On a more serious note, i would have expected a video showing it off not just stills.
jrs77 26th February 2013, 12:21 Quote
nVidia has those fancy hair-stuff for some time now, but noone has really implemented it into their games, so why should anyone consider the solution made by AMD? Maybe because the new consoles have an impact on this with their AMD-hardware.

In general: old news is old.
Deders 26th February 2013, 12:37 Quote
Is it really "worth it"
GeorgeStorm 26th February 2013, 12:40 Quote
Pity there isn't a video.

This is actually something I think could potentially be really good (if it's well implemented and widely used) since hair is something that normally really does remind you you're playing a game.
Gareth Halfacree 26th February 2013, 12:42 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenderz
Why should AMD enable this on Nvidia cards whilst Nvidia don't enable their tech they put their R&D time into on AMD cards.
But Nvidia's implementation of PhysX is written in CUDA, which (given they hired the guy who invented it) only works on Nvidia hardware; TressFX Hair, by contrast, is written in DirectCompute, which works on both Nvidia and AMD hardware. Thus there is a technical reason (born, admittedly, of a marketing decision) for PhysX to run exclusively on Nvidia hardware that does not exist for TressFX Hair.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
nVidia has those fancy hair-stuff for some time now, but noone has really implemented it into their games, so why should anyone consider the solution made by AMD?
Well then AMD is ahead of the game, 'cos they've already got one win in the bag: as the article states, Tomb Raider features TressFX Hair technology.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
In general: old news is old.
Given AMD only announced this late last night, after teasing a couple of hints a day or so ago, I'm curious as to how you're categorising this as "old news." I should be building a time machine and bringing you news from next week, perhaps?
Archandel 26th February 2013, 13:14 Quote
Realistic P0RN game anyone? Puhlease?! Pretty please?!
Griffter 26th February 2013, 14:29 Quote
what can pics show u of realistic hair??? thats like showing u realistic gravity and physics with pics. ai
Gareth Halfacree 26th February 2013, 14:56 Quote
Just received confirmation from AMD: TressFX Hair is compatible with any DirectX11 GPU, including those made by Nvidia. I thought as much - what a cleverly-worded press release!
Parge 26th February 2013, 15:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Just received confirmation from AMD: TressFX Hair is compatible with any DirectX11 GPU, including those made by Nvidia. I thought as much - what a cleverly-worded press release!

That is great news to be honest, it would be beneficial to consumers if both NVidia and AMD shared software tech more.
Gareth Halfacree 26th February 2013, 16:12 Quote
Just updated the update - as well as word from an unnamed spokesperson (Pro Tip: if a journalist quotes a "company spokesperson," what they actually mean is "PR person from a third-party outfit hired to represent the company" - but don't tell anyone I told you that, it's a secret) I've received the following from Devon Nekechuck, AMD's terribly genial product manager for the High-End Discrete Desktop Graphics division:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Devon Nekechuck
TressFX will definitely work on any DirectCompute-enabled device. This has roots in the core of Gaming Evolved, where we want to enable technology for all gamers, and not create proprietary features that lock out gamers that use our competitor's products. That said, TressFX is very computationally intensive, and hence games that use TressFX will really be able to benefit from high DirectCompute performance. Because of that, you will see Graphics Core Next-based GPUs excel when it's enabled.
jrs77 26th February 2013, 16:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Given AMD only announced this late last night, after teasing a couple of hints a day or so ago, I'm curious as to how you're categorising this as "old news." I should be building a time machine and bringing you news from next week, perhaps?

It's old because nVidia is showcasing this technology for over a year now.

AMD must have paid alot of money to get this implemented into Tomb Raider, or it's because of the new consoles using AMD-hardware.
Gareth Halfacree 26th February 2013, 16:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by jrs77
It's old because nVidia is showcasing this technology for over a year now.
No, Nvidia hasn't been showcasing anything like this. You show me a single DirectCompute-powered hair rendering engine released by Nvidia. Go ahead. I'll wait here.

Now, what Nvidia *did* release a couple of years back - and the release that, I believe, has you confused - was a demo of a hair-rendering engine. This engine was not available to developers as a plug-in they could add to their games, and nor was it new even then: Nvidia has been working on realistic hair rendering for years. Heck, here's a SIGGRAPH paper from 2008 all about the subject.

Compare and contrast with AMD, which has released a working hair rendering engine that is compatible with all DirectCompute-enabled graphics cards and can be licensed right damn now for inclusion into a game - hence its appearance in Tomb Raider.

That is what we in the business call 'news.'
runadumb 26th February 2013, 17:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Griffter
what can pics show u of realistic hair??? thats like showing u realistic gravity and physics with pics. ai

Yeah they really need to release a video of it in "action".
yougotkicked 26th February 2013, 19:15 Quote
glad to see it's not going to be an exclusive. Nvidia's PhysX was a great graphics feature that almost no one has used since mirrors edge because it was proprietary, developers don't want to invest time in a feature only half of their fans will be able to use.
Corky42 26th February 2013, 19:34 Quote
I wouldn't say almost no one uses PhysX, 40+ games use it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_with_hardware-accelerated_PhysX_support
adidan 26th February 2013, 20:29 Quote
^ lol

Can you buy TressFX at Boots? I could do with one.

The more to improve imagery the better and as for:
Quote:
Originally Posted by yougotkicked
glad to see it's not going to be an exclusive..
Couldn't agree more, it's good to see things coming to the fore that can be used by all.
Lenderz 27th February 2013, 00:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
But Nvidia's implementation of PhysX is written in CUDA, which (given they hired the guy who invented it) only works on Nvidia hardware; TressFX Hair, by contrast, is written in DirectCompute, which works on both Nvidia and AMD hardware. Thus there is a technical reason (born, admittedly, of a marketing decision) for PhysX to run exclusively on Nvidia hardware that does not exist for TressFX Hair.?

True how ever, there is no reason that CUDA couldn't run on AMD cards other than marketing reasons if I recall correctly Nvidia said as much in an interview with bit-tech a while ago.

And I seem to remember running a hacked driver yonks ago on a 4000 series AMD card when they were just out that enabled Physx perfectly on AMDs GPU's, it's possible I had an older secondary Nvidia card though, I can't honestly recall.

That said, fair play to AMD for making this technology open and availble to all, it's a great stance for them to take.
fluxtatic 27th February 2013, 09:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Corky42
I wouldn't say almost no one uses PhysX, 40+ games use it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_with_hardware-accelerated_PhysX_support

Err...40+? Right, thank god "Stoked Rider: Alaska Alien" has it...sorry, but that list goes back 7 years. Not exactly a hugely ringing endorsement of PhysX. I'm not saying there's no good games on there, but it's not exactly a list that would have me running to get an Nvidia card so I could have PhysX (to be fair, though, I only get Nvidia cards because my experience with AMD has been...not good.) The few mentions I remember of people have PhysX cards, it seems most often they're resurrecting a 9800GTX or the like back from the dead only because they have it around and they can (a mentality I fully support.)

But, not to bag on you or PhysX. I'd go along with the idea that hair is one of those things that seems to stand out as fake in games, so this is a good thing. It just seems a little silly to have a press release/conference/whatever about it - it's video game hair! Are you serious?

They have to make it known, so good, I guess, just seems a little goofy.
impar 27th February 2013, 10:18 Quote
Greetings!
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gareth Halfacree
Just received confirmation from AMD: TressFX Hair is compatible with any DirectX11 GPU, including those made by Nvidia.
A slap in nVidias face (BAA AA...).
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