ELI5: Explain Like I'm 5

ray tracer

A ray tracer is like a special puzzle game. Each puzzle is a picture, and it's up to the "player" (in this case, a computer program) to figure out how to put the pieces of the puzzle together. In this case, the pieces of the puzzle are "rays" of light.

The computer will shoot out rays of light from a point called an "eye", and these rays spread out through the puzzle, bouncing off pieces of the scene and taking on different colors and brightness. The goal is to figure out where each ray of light should go and how bright it should be in the end.

The computer uses a bunch of math and algorithms to do this. It takes all the information it has about the scene, and it calculates all the ways the rays can bounce off objects, creating a very realistic picture in the end.