Minecraft’s RTX-powered ray tracing arrives in beta later this week

Minecraft’s cherished but rudimentary pixel art sandboxes are about to get a massive visual overhaul, as Microsoft and Nvidia are announcing RTX-powered ray tracing is coming in beta form to the Windows version of Minecraft later this week.

The beta will launch at 1PM ET on Thursday, April 16th, and it will bring big upgrades to lighting, reflections, shadows, and other key graphical elements to anyone using a Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics card. Minecraft’s ray tracing was first announced last October, but it only had a 2020 release date at the time.

Alongside 4K resolution at decent frame rates, real time ray tracing is the key differentiator for Nvidia’s Turing-based RTX cards that first released back in fall 2018. The rendering technique, once reserved only for post-processing of computer-animated images, creates more realistic visuals by more accurately rendering the way a virtual environment is lit and the way the light moves through that environment.

Since the launch of its RTX cards, Nvidia has brought the RTX line to portable machines, and the company also introduced a Super variant for both desktop and, earlier this month, for laptops as well.

In addition to the Minecraft ray tracing beta launch date, Nvidia is also announcing that its RTX support for the game will also include DLSS 2.0, short for Deep Learning Super Sampling. It’s a relatively new and novel machine learning-powered resolution enhancement technique from Nvidia that produces sharper images at higher frame rates using the same type of artificial intelligence that powers object recognition, machine translation, and other cuttng-edge AI feats.

Nvidia has also brought on six top Minecraft creators to each create a custom map designed to exemplify the new ray tracing effects, with each one designed to allow generous amounts of natural light to pour through open spaces.