Lucid's HYDRA GPU pairing technology could soon allow PC builders to incorporate multiple video cards that - hear this, ATI and Nvidia - don't have to be identical. What this potentially means, among other things, is that gamers could leverage old hardware instead of just sadly setting it aside, though paired cards must be of the same brand. HYDRA differs functionally from Nvidia's SLI and ATI's Crossfire solutions, which split rendering by sectioning off the screen and alternating frames between cards, respectively, by intelligently distributing highly specific rendering tasks between the GPUs. Instead of divvying up all the tasks equally, HYDRA will only send as many polygons or shader calls as each constituent card can handle (see right of the above pic for an example of what one of two cards might be rendering).
The most irritating aspects of current twin-card configurations (well, aside from the fact that you had to buy two cards in the first place) are the high cost and disappointingly low performance gains. HYDRA, which Lucid claims could scale to up to handle four unique GPUs, could remedy both of these issues if it ever comes to market. The company says it'll be soon, but that's as specific as they're getting for now. Visual learners can check out a detailed diagram of the system below. [PcPer via Slashdot]