Khronos Group Announces Vulkan: OpenGL Evolution Will Pave Way For Smoother Mobile Gaming Graphics


Gamers soon won't need dual water-cooled Tegra K1 Dual Denver cores to flawlessly run mobile games, if the evolution of OpenGL, now known as Vulkan, lives up to its promise. Gaming graphics in general should see marked improvement, with the lowered overhead that's akin to AMD's Mantle and the next version of Microsoft's DirectX.

The Khronos Group, the consortium behind OpenGL, announced the Vulkan application programming interface (API) at the 2015 Game Developer Conference. The group is offering a technical preview of the API, as the consortium hammers out Vulkan's specifications.

Right now, the Khronos Group is inviting developers to try out the open-source API so that it can finalize the specs and roll out Vulkan later in the year. NVIDIA has restated its support for OpenGL, touting the API's strength in mobile gaming.

"Vulkan's focus on enabling portable, high-performance games and engines will drive cutting-edge content across the range of NVIDIA's gaming platforms including PC, mobile and cloud," said Barthold Lichtenbelt, senior director of Tegra graphics software at NVIDIA.

Like AMD's Mantle and Microsoft's incoming DirectX 12, Vulkan will offer games a more direct route to the hardware and compute power. The result should be accelerated graphics, which would reduce the stuttering and frame loss in mobile games and 3D apps in general.

The Vulkan API will also enjoy support from the Khronos Group's SPIR-V specification, which enhances the flexibility of shading languages. In effect, game developers will have more choice in what shading technologies they use when they use the Vulkan API to develop games.

"The use of SPIR-V by Vulkan and OpenCL will fundamentally reshape the graphics and compute ecosystem by enabling diverse language and middleware front-ends to leverage the hardware community's investment in optimized back-end drivers," said Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group and chair of the OpenCL working group and vice president at NVIDIA.

ARM, the group behind the popular ARM architecture, called Vulkan a huge step forward. The API will enable ARM's developers to unleash more of the capabilities of the company's GPUs, according to Jem Davies, vice president of technology of ARM's media processing group.

"Since helping found Khronos, ARM has strived to improve the efficiency of standards and deliver compelling graphics to mobile devices with minimum energy consumption," said Davies.

Other vocal supporters of the OpenGL and the new Vulkan API include Valve boss Gabe Newell, who said his company sees the possibility of the new API as critical component to its Steam OS. Vivante, producers of GPUs for everything from smartphones to automobiles, is dreaming about how the new API will help developers better leverage its hardware.

"Efficient, close to metal, developer-friendly GPU APIs combining rendering with compute are a natural fit for Vivante's highly efficient GPU architectures," said Wei-Jin Dai, president and CEO of Vivante.

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