AMD's TressFX hair rendering magic revealed, makes Lara's locks look loveliest on PC

After teasing us all with its TressFX tagline - Render. Rinse. Repeat - AMD have today revealed their (apparently painstaking) collaboration with Crystal Dynamics: the world's first real-time hair rendering technology in a playable game. Tomb Raider is the first title to get the treatment, with its bedraggled heroine's bonce featuring the most advanced follicle tech ever.

Realistic hair is, according to AMD, one of the most complex and challenging materials to accurately produce in real-time. With so many different strands and physics computations needed to model their interaction with each other, it's no wonder that we've been stuck with chunky polygon make-weight barnets in gaming. But no longer.

TressFX uses the existing DirectCompute language to use the massively parallel capabilities of modern graphics cards, and AMD is citing the Graphics Core Next architecture as key to the ability to accurately render the hair in real-time. It's not clear yet whether the TressFX tech is going to be proprietary to AMD's Graphics Core Next architecture, or whether it's going to run on any GPU with the compute capabilities necessary to handle such a large number of objects. However, there are strong suggestions it'll be an open technology: AMD have talked a lot about using the open DirectCompute language, and though their GCN architecture is particularly well-equipped to handle this stuff, they've never stated it's the only architecture capable.

That could be very important for the widespread use of the tech by different developers, and considering Nvidia's Tessellation/compute-based hair tech hasn't been really picked up since its launch alongside Fermi in 2010, you'd hope AMD would see the opportunities inherent in making their tech open for all. Plus, AMD has past form in championing non-proprietary tech, like the HD3D tech and the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) it is soon introducing to its APUs - possibly in the PlayStation 4 and NextBox - so we've got high hopes.

The possibilities for this technology are thrilling: more realistic yetis, real-time beard physics, Hair Salon Simulator 2014...

Just imagine!

Dave James
Managing Editor, Hardware

Dave has been gaming since the days of Zaxxon and Lady Bug on the Colecovision, and code books for the Commodore Vic 20 (Death Race 2000!). He built his first gaming PC at the tender age of 16, and finally finished bug-fixing the Cyrix-based system around a year later. When he dropped it out of the window. He first started writing for Official PlayStation Magazine and Xbox World many decades ago, then moved onto PC Format full-time, then PC Gamer, TechRadar, and T3 among others. Now he's back, writing about the nightmarish graphics card market, CPUs with more cores than sense, gaming laptops hotter than the sun, and SSDs more capacious than a Cybertruck.