#104: Neil Trevett on the Khronos Group & the new Vulkan Standard for Next-Generation Graphics, OpenCL 2.1 & SPIR-V

Neil_TrevettThe Khronos Group is an open standards organization for compute, graphics and media, and they provide interoperability APIs to enable the portability of hardware. Neil Trevett is the President of the Khronos Group, and he talks about the three main announcements that were made at GDC including:

Neil talks about how SPIR-V is used by both Open CL 2.1 and by Vulkan, and he explains more about what SPIR-V enables.

VR requires a lot of different pieces of hardware and software to come together. Khronos Group brings 120 companies together ranging form Google, Intel, Oculus VR, Nvidia and AMD. They’re taking feedback from VR display vendors in order to drive more pixels and optimize the graphics pipeline to be performant enough for VR.

He explains the tension between platforms and interoperability of the hardware and software vendors. This helps the ecosystem to evolve, and he talks about the importance of standards that come from the Khronos Group. Neil sees that VR is still very much in that chaos phase of experimentation for creating the most compelling VR experiences. Then once it’s clear the direction of the industry is moving, then standards start to play a bigger role.

Open standards like Vulkan usually work best when they have proprietary competitors like DirectX 12. He talks about the advantages of having both in the ecosystem, and how that competition can drive innovation and provide choice to developers.

Microsoft recently joined the Khronos Group, and they joined for the WebGL working group, and the Khronos Group invites a lot of different companies to participate.

The WebVR standard currently lives between the World Wide Consortium (W3C) and the Khronos Group. WebGL ended up being governed by the Khronos Group instead of the W3C because it’s more tightly tied to the GPU, and all of the hardware stakeholders were already a part of the Khronos Group.

Khronos Group has interoperability APIs to enable portability of hardware, and they’ve started to implement conformance tests that are a part of the Vulkan standard to ensure that their properly implemented by each vendor.

One of the myths about standards body is that standards bodies move too slowly, but Neil says that it’s more about the time to ecosystem of a solution being implemented by multiple vendors. He also reassures members of the Khronos Group that your intellectual property is protected. Part of being a part of the Khronos Group is that members agree to not sue each other for proper implementations of Vulkan.

The Khronos Group is involved with helping to reducing latency in drivers, and they’ll be taking a lot of feedback from the VR community over the next couple of years to take those suggestions and integrate those into the APIs.

Finally, Neil sees that the future of VR will be driven by applications that help companies save or make more money. He sees that it’s an exciting time for the technology, and that VR will continue to push innovation throughout the graphics hardware industry.

Below are some of the presentations that the Khronos Group and various members gave during GDC.

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

Slides of Valve’s GDC 2015 talk “Vulkan: The Future of High-Performance Graphics”

Vulkan and SPIR-V session

OpenCL 2.1 Technical Overview Session

Here are the slides that Neil Trevett presented about the Khronos Group at the Immersive Technology Alliance Press Conference at GDC:

Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio

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