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Khronos Group releases OpenGL 4.1 graphics specification

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Nvidia and AMD to release drivers shortly


The royalty-free, open standards consortium known as the Khronos Group have just publicly released the official specifications of the OpenGL 4.1 graphics system, bringing the latest graphics functionality to the most advanced and widely adopted cross-platform 2D and 3D graphics API.

We wrote about the last update to the standard back in March 2009 with the release of OpenGL 3.1, but the Khronos Group had actually released the OpenGL 3.3 and OpenGL 4.0 specifications simultaneously a little under four months ago. Back then, the consortium made no objections about its intentions for the OpenGL 4 standard. It fully expected the library to feature standardized support for two key features of Direct3D 11 - hardware tessellation and compute shaders. By now, we expect the new 4.1 update has made a timely release date with full backwards compatibility with OpenGL 4 and previous standards to enable developers to begin using new features whenever they choose.


The new specification update includes the GLSL 4.10 library update to the OpenGL Shading language and features a number of flexibility improvements, including full compatibility with OpenGL ES 2.0 APIs for easier porting between mobile and desktop platforms, as well as the ability to query and load a binary for shader program objects to save re-compilation time. Other new core functionality improvements include 64-bit floating-point component vertex shader inputs for higher geometric precision, multiple viewports for a rendering surface for increased rendering flexibility, and the capability to bind programs individually to programmable stages for programming flexibility. ArsTechnica has a full technical breakdown and explanation of the new features that can be found here.

According to Dr. Jon Peddie of Jon Peddie Research, a leading graphics market analyst in California, “Khronos is methodically building their vision for pervasive developer access to cross-platform graphics, media and compute acceleration. The continued rapid-fire OpenGL evolution feeds high-end graphics innovation into that strategy. Just as significant as OpenGL 4.1’s new 3D functionality are the ever closer links with OpenCL and OpenGL ES 2.0 – another significant step in strengthening the Khronos API ecosystem.”

Nvidia went on record to express its satisfaction with OpenGL ARB's (Architecture Review Board) progress in the development of the open standard.“The release of OpenGL 4.1 just five months after OpenGL 4.0 shows that collaborative innovation to build market opportunities for high-performance GPU acceleration is not slowing down. The ARB is also working hard to ensure backwards compatibility with each release so developers can absorb new functionality at their own pace,” said Barthold Lichtenbelt, OpenGL ARB working group chair and senior manager Core OpenGL at NVIDIA. “I am also pleased to announce that NVIDIA will release OpenGL 4.1 production drivers on our developer site for all Fermi-based graphics accelerators, including the GeForce GTX 400 series, during SIGGRAPH. OpenGL 4.1 is not just a specification – it’s here and now.” (Update: Nvidia released GeForce 259.09 WHQL-certified drivers for Windows and Linux with full OpenGL 4.1 and GLSL 4.10 functionality that can be downloaded here)

AMD has also announced its commitment to the open standards that OpenGL advocates and plans to support OpenGL 4.1 in an upcoming Catalyst driver release. “The ability of the ARB to produce new and updated graphics standards at a regular cadence speaks volumes to their ongoing efforts to ensure healthy advances in the field of graphics, and AMD is proud to have contributed to this," said Ben Bar-Haim, corporate vice president, software at AMD. In related news, the company has also announced several ISV certification grants for its FirePro graphics cards and new drivers for professionals that promise up to 81 percent performance increases over the previous generation.

Khronos will be heading an OpenGL 4.1 API workshop at SIGGRAPH 2010 today on Wednesday, July 28, 2010. The meeting will take place between 5:15pm and 7:15pm PST at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in Los Angeles, California.


SIGGRAPH 2010 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Downtown LA

The OpenGL 4.1 standard was publicly released on July 25, 2010, and the full PDF documentation with changes highlighted can be found here.

Last modified on 28 July 2010
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