Video cards are pretty powerful these days, to the point where it’s possible to procedurally generate shapes and images using nothing but shader programs running on your GPU. If you’re wondering just how good things are now, check out this recreation of the Star Trek: TNG intro made almost entirely with shaders.
Note: If you can’t see the embed above, you can access the intro directly here.
Everything you see is procedurally generated via shader code. A few parts require solid data, such as a texture for the font, windows and other small details, but the Enterprise itself doesn’t use an actual 3D model — it’s created on-the-fly from basic shapes, sculpted using mathematics.
Is it an efficient way to make a 3D version of the TNG intro? Not really, but like the demoscene of old, it’s about embracing the challenge and doing it because, well, you can.
Even better, if you know a thing or two about GLSL, you can play with the intro yourself using ShaderToy.
First one to get a Klingon bird of prey in there gets a cookie.