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Is there currently anyone working on a link between these two fields? I have a hunch that, due to the repetitive nature of sampling, there could be a good bit to gain in the area of ray tracing using Machine Learning techniques, but I'm interested in finding out more and getting involved if there's a group out there doing this.

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A group from UC Santa Barbara published the Siggraph 2015 paper A Machine Learning Approach for Filtering Monte Carlo Noise describing a technique which trains a neural network to select filtering parameters for path tracing. The paper details the structure of the neural network, the filter parameters used and how several secondary features are pre-computed to feed the neural network.

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