OpenGL 4.4, OpenCL 2.0 released

July 23, 2013 // 10:20 a.m.

Tags: #api #barthold-lichtenbelt #direct3d #directx #gpgpu #gpu #graphics-card #khronos-group #opencl #opengl #the-khronos-group

The Khronos Group has announced updates to its OpenGL and OpenCL graphics and compute specifications, adding in some impressive new features for those who prefer their application programming interfaces (APIs) cross-platform.

Announced at the SIGGRAPH 2013 event in Anaheim late last night, both updates are immediately available for download and use by developers looking to make use of the increasing power of modern graphics hardware. The group also announced the first set of formal OpenGL conformance tests since OpenGL 2.0, requiring that vendors submit their hardware for full certification in order to boast OpenGL 4.4 compatibility.

'The delivery of conformance tests for OpenGL 4.4 is a significant milestone,' claimed Barthold Lichtenbelt, chair of the OpenGL Architecture Review Board Working Group, at the event, 'as it is vital for developers to be able to rely on the API they are trusting to accelerate their content across multiple platforms. The OpenGL ARB is committed to continue to deepen communications with the developer community so we can continue to build OpenGL functionality that creates real-world business opportunities for the 3D industry.'

As well as the new certification requirement, OpenGL 4.4 introduces new functionality to the standard including specifications for buffer placement control which allows for a CPU to map a buffer for direct use by a GPU, a new asynchronous query system which allows buffer objects to be a direct target in order to avoid the CPU waiting for the result and stalling the graphics pipeline, detailed control over shader variable layout including the ability to pack vectors efficiently alongside scalar types, multiple object binding using a single API call rather than a call per individual operation, and new core functions designed to make it easier to port Direct3D applications across to OpenGL.

In addition, two new extensions have been confirmed: the Bindless Texture Extension, which allows shaders to access an unlimited number of texture and imaging resources using a virtual addressing system, and the Sparse Texture Extension, which allows for handling of so-called 'mega-textures' larger than the GPU's available physical memory - something Microsoft has already announced for its latest DirectX implementation.

All these new features add up, the Khronos Group has claimed, to significantly improved performance - providing, of course, that developers choose to make use of the improved feature set of OpenGL 4.4 and that hardware manufacturers submit their devices and drivers for certification under the new conformance testing guidelines.

The group's GPGPU offload language, OpenCL, was also upgraded last night to version 2.0. The biggest changes include dynamic parallelism without the need for host interaction, shared virtual memory between host and device kernels, a generic address space, support for additional image types including sRGB and 3D images, and built-in functions for kernels to read from or write to pipes that store data organised in a first-in, first-out (FIFO) format. The new version also includes an extension for installing an OpenCL client on Android devices, loading it as a shared object for use by client applications.

More details on both releases are available on the official website.
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