Khronos Reveals Vulkan API for High-efficiency Graphics and Compute on GPUs

Demos of real-world applications running on Vulkan drivers and hardware at GDC; New SPIR-V intermediate language shared by Vulkan and OpenCL 2.1

March 3rd 2015, San Francisco, GDC – The Khronos™ Group, an open consortium of leading hardware and software companies, today announced the availability of technical previews of  the new Vulkan™open standard API for high-efficiency access to graphics and compute on modern GPUs used in a wide variety of devices. This ground-up design, previously referred to as the Next Generation OpenGL® Initiative, provides applications direct control over GPU acceleration for maximized performance and predictability, and uses Khronos’ new SPIR-V™ specification for shading language flexibility. Vulkan initial specifications and implementations are expected later this year and any company may participate in Vulkan’s ongoing development by joining Khronos. Industry feedback is welcomed at

“Industry standard APIs like Vulkan are a critical part of enabling developers to bring the best possible experience to customers on multiple platforms,” said Valve's Gabe Newell. “Valve and the other Khronos members are working hard to ensure that this high-performance graphics interface is made available as widely as possible and we view it as a critical component of SteamOS and future Valve games.”

Vulkan Technical Previews at GDC in San Francisco

Khronos is offering special preview sessions for insights into the Vulkan architecture.

Vulkan: The Future of High Performance Graphics – hosted by Valve
Thursday, March 5 at 10-11AM
Venue: Room 2006 in the West Hall of the GDC Conference
A technical preview of the Vulkan API, with advanced techniques and live demos of real-world applications running on Vulkan drivers and hardware

Vulkan: the Next Generation Graphics and Compute API
Thursday, March 5 at 12-1:30pm and repeated at 2–3:30pm 
Venue: SF Green Space at 657 Mission Street, Suite 200 – five minutes’ walk from GDC
Vulkan overview, demos and direct interaction with working group members
No GDC pass required, however seating is limited so  please registerif you plan to attend.

About Vulkan
Vulkan is a unified specification that minimizes driver overhead and enables multi-threaded GPU command preparation for optimal graphics and compute performance on diverse mobile, desktop, console and embedded platforms. Vulkan also provides the direct GPU control demanded by sophisticated game engines, middleware and applications with the cross vendor performance and functional portability resulting from simpler, more predictable drivers. The layered design of Vulkan enables multiple IHVs to plug into a common, extensible architecture for code validation, debugging and profiling during development without impacting production performance; this layering flexibility is expected to catalyze strong innovation in cross-vendor GPU tools.

In another significant announcement today, Vulkan and OpenCL 2.1 are now sharing core intermediate language technologies resulting in SPIR-V; a revolution in the Khronos Standard Portable Intermediate Representation initially used by OpenCL™, now fully defined by Khronos with native support for shader and kernel features. SPIR-V splits the compiler chain, enabling high-level language front-ends to emit programs in a standardized intermediate form to be ingested by Vulkan or OpenCL drivers. Eliminating the need for a built-in high-level language source compiler significantly reduces GPU driver complexity and will enable a diversity of language front-ends. Additionally, a standardized IR provides a measure of shader IP protection, accelerated shader load times and enables developers to use a common language front-end, improving shader reliability and portability across multiple implementations.

“Vulkan is a significant Khronos initiative to provide developers the choice of a state-of-the-art GPU API that is open and portable across multiple platforms, at a time where platform diversity is increasing,”said Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group and vice president at NVIDIA. “Khronos will be driving the Vulkan ecosystem with open source conformance test components and sample front-end compiler implementations that use SPIR-V to leverage the hardware community’s investment in optimized back-end drivers. Vulkan expands the family of Khronos 3D APIs, and complements OpenGL and OpenGL ES that between them, provide access to billions of GPUs today, and will continue to be evolved and maintained to meet industry needs.”

Industry Support for Vulkan

“With direct influence on several generations of hardware and software architectures for milliwatt to kilowatt platforms, OpenGL is undeniably the industry’s most successful 3D Graphics API,” said Raja Koduri, corporate vice president, Visual and Perceptual Computing, AMD.“Vulkan is a transformation to OpenGL that brings forth exciting low-overhead capabilities to enable compelling increases in performance and power efficiency while maintaining developer productivity.”

“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 Jem Davies, vice president of technology, media processing group, ARM. “Vulkan is a big step forward in enabling our ecosystem of developers to unleash the capabilities of the latest ARM GPU technology.”

“Codeplay is excited that Vulkan's SPIR-V feature will enable new languages and tools to be used in graphics. By standardizing the way new languages can be added to graphics, a whole new tools ecosystem is being opened up,” said Andrew Richards, CEO of Codeplay.

“As one of the major manufacturers for digital automotive instrument clusters and infotainment systems, Continental fully supports Khronos' new Vulkan initiative,” Dr. Ulrich Kabatek, principal technical expert graphic systems & 3D visualization at Continental Automotive. “It will enable high-quality graphic systems with custom safety levels and increase connectivity for our sustainable, safe, comfortable, individual, and affordable solutions. Simply, it is a huge step forward towards the driving experience of tomorrow. We wish Vulkan all the best!”

“Imagination is proud to have been a major contributor to the new Vulkan standard. With this new API alongside OpenGL ES, we feel that Khronos now has the right set of APIs in place to address the extreme performance and mainstream ends of the graphics programming market,” said Peter McGuinness, director of technology marketing, Imagination Technologies.

“NVIDIA is a strong supporter of OpenGL and we are actively engaged in the development of Vulkan,” said Barthold Lichtenbelt, senior director of Tegra graphics software at NVIDIA. “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.”

“The Vulkan API is a groundbreaking rethink of graphics software technology,” said Dan Baker, co-founder, Oxide Games. “The efficiency and threading abilities are profound leaps forward that enable Oxide Games to create entirely new game genres on a variety of platforms.”

“We are very excited about the introduction of the Vulkan™ API. Vulkan will allow us to maximize GPU performance for graphically demanding games enabled with future versions of our cross-platform portability technology,” said Gavriel State, CTO & Founder at TransGaming. “The Khronos Group plays a leading role in maintaining open standards across a unified technology ecosystem that TransGaming is proud to contribute towards as a dedicated member.”

“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.“Vulkan unleashes the newest innovations inside Vivante's latest GPU hardware and will provide a boost to the pervasive Vivante GPU powered platforms currently in the market. Khronos has moved the industry forward with the release of Vulkan to drive platforms in the current and next generation of the GPU-enabled ecosystem.”

About The Khronos Group

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