Restart Trail for Stackless BVH Traversal

A ray cast algorithm utilizing a hierarchical acceleration structure needs to perform a tree traversal in the hierarchy. In its basic form, executing the traversal requires a stack that holds the nodes that are still to be processed. In some cases, such a stack can be prohibitively expensive to maintain or access, due to storage or memory bandwidth limitations. The stack can, however, be eliminated or replaced with a fixed-size buffer using so-called stackless or short stack algorithms. These require that the traversal can be restarted from root so that the already processed part of the tree is not entered again. For kd-tree ray casts, this is accomplished easily by ray shortening, but the approach does not extend to other kinds of hierarchies such as BVHs.

In this paper, we introduce restart trail, a simple algorithmic method that makes restarts possible regardless of the type of hierarchy by storing one bit of data per level. This enables stackless and short stack traversal for BVH ray casts, where using a full stack or constraining the traversal order have so far been the only options.


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