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Cube Environment Mapping
Reflection of the surrounding environment on a 3D object may sound rather unimportant, but if you look around your room you might realize that many objects actually do reflect. A bottle of water, a mobile phone, a CD-cover, a picture frame, the front of your stereo, .... are only few examples of reflecting objects that could be found in any 3D scene just as much. To make the 3D-world more realistic those object should show reflections as well and for this purpose cube environment mapping was introduced into GeForce last year.
Cube environment mapping is a technique developed by SGI a while ago and NVIDIA was the first to bring it to home desktops. The idea is pretty simple. From an object with a reflective surface (and not from the room center, as I read somewhere else) you render six environment maps in each room direction (front, back, up, down, left, right) and use those to display the reflections on this object.
It can either be used to reflect in detail or blurred, but it can also be used for more accurate (per-pixel) specular lighting. The viewer/camera can move around the reflecting object without you noticing distortions or other artifacts in the reflection, something that's not possible with sphere environment mapping. Cube environment mapping is fully implemented into DirectX 7 and will certainly be found in 3D-games very soon.