A newly discovered patent suggests that AMD could be taking a hybrid approach for accomplishing real-time ray tracing. While hardware and software-based solutions exist, both have their drawbacks.
AMD believes the former locks programmers to a specific hardware configuration, while the latter incurs a significant performance penalty due to the lack of optimization. The company has opted for a hybrid solution that addresses both shortcomings by mixing software with dedicated hardware and existing shader units.
It’s worth noting that this application was filed a year-and-a-half ago; AMD might have developed a new ray tracing system in the interim. But right now it seems like the company doesn’t want to go the exact same route as Nvidia, which included dedicated ray tracing cores in Turing-based GPUs, and would rather use a mix of dedicated and non-dedicated hardware to give devs more flexibility.