Older AMD GPUs get raytracing support on Linux via open source driver
The raytracing technology for particularly beautiful and realistic light and shadow effects is slowly but surely making its way into many games, also in part because Sony's and Microsoft's latest consoles finally support the feature. In the PC segment, Nvidia and its RTX graphics cards are certainly the more advanced raytracing capable hardware compared to AMD's offering of Radeon GPUs, which could need some more optimization to improve their raytracing performance.
But since raytracing can generally also be supported by older hardware, a few Linux enthusiasts have now taken on the task of bringing raytracing support to older AMD graphics cards. Under the project name "Mesa 3D", they are developing an open source driver that enables the OpenGL and Vulkan APIs under Linux. With this unofficial piece of software, older AMD GPUs from the Vega, Polaris and first Navi generation are supposedly able to trace rays.
In simple words, the driver uses software emulation to enable raytracing, which is an approach that will presumably be very GPU-intensive. Since raytracing performance is already mediocre on the most recent AMD graphics cards like the Radeon RX 6800 XT (from US$1,499 on Amazon), it remains to be seen if raytracing is even practically usable on these older GPUs. That being said, this is still a great example of the impressive results of open source software development.
Toms Hardware, Image: AMD