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Khronos updates OpenGL high-performance graphics

The nonprofit Khronos Group is expanding its standard-bearer flag deeper into the world of Web graphics

The nonprofit Khronos Group standards organization announced a new specification this week for OpenGL 4.2, which brings new graphics functionality to the what's considered to be the most widely adopted cross-platform 2D and 3D graphics API.

OpenGL 4.2 includes specs for enhancing pixel rendering, geometry and efficiency in memory storage and bandwidth, as well as a lot of other very technical specs. In short, OpenGL 4.2 makes graphics looks better across multiple platforms and gives developers a consistent set of APIs to work with.

Neil Trevett, vice president of mobile content for Nvidia, said there were consistent requests for both performance and functionality improvements and the group aggregated a huge amount of developer feedback to create the latest release and enhance both the API and the shading language.

OpenGL has evolved quite rapidly over the last five years, with a new, improved release annually or better. This contrasts with Microsoft's DirectX technology which hasn't seen a major release update since the middle of 2009.

Accelerating OpenGL Innovation
Accelerating OpenGL Innovation Khronos Group

In addition to the release of the specification for OpenGL 4.2 Khronos has widened its call for participation in its two newest working groups: StreamInput and WebCL.

StreamInput is defining a cross-platform API for advanced sensor processing and user interaction, with support for a general-purpose framework for consistently handling advanced sensors such as depth cameras, touch screens, and motion and orientation sensors as well as traditional input devices

WebCL is creating JavaScript bindings to OpenCL to enable heterogeneous parallel computing in HTML5 Web browsers to enable Web applications to harness GPU and multi-core CPU parallel processing from within a Web browser, enabling significant acceleration of applications such as image and video processing and advanced physics for WebGL games.

Khronos Group is an organization dedicated to the creation of royalty-free, open standards for authoring, accelerating, and accessing visual computing on a wide variety of operating systems and devices.

Comprised of more than 110 members, the Khronos organization aims to be the standard-setter for APIs that enable powerful new graphics as well as compute, media authoring and acceleration capabilities on desktop, embedded and mobile platforms. This entails not just a standard but also niceties such as testing suites to ensure that the APIs work uniformly across applications and operating systems.

Examples of these standards include WebGL, a new web technology that brings hardware-accelerated 3D graphics to the browser without installing additional software, and COLLADA, a royalty-free XML schema that enables digital asset exchange within the interactive 3D industry.

What's interesting about the organization and the API ecosystem that it has developed is the evidence that large vendors can work together for the greater good of the industry--something that seems to have taken a back seat amongst lawsuits and arguments over patents and mobile efforts, which have been burdened by IP issues and inconsistency in the Android platform.

And mobile may well be the biggest benefactor of Khronos efforts, especially in regards to HTML5 and WebGL (note this is my interpretation and not explicitly stated by Khronos or its members) where the architectures come together to create a consistent stack of functionality that in theory gives mobile developers the ability to write once, run anywhere.

As the web continues to be the most widespread cross-platform programming platform and JavaScript has proven to be a viable language for front-end application presentation, there is an opportunity to amalgamate efforts between Web and native APIs, making it easier for developers to create robust applications that better take advantage of graphics capabilities.