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12 August 2011, 12:27

SIGGRAPH 2011: OpenGL, WebGL and other developments

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SIGGRAPH 2011 logo Version 4.2 of the OpenGL graphics programming interface is complete, and progress is being made on WebGL and OpenCL. At three "Birds of a Feather" meetings on OpenGL, WebGL and OpenCL, representatives of AMD, NVIDIA, Google and Opera talked about the state of development and future plans.

The main changes concern the official release of version 4.2 of the OpenGL graphics programming interface. Now, OpenGL shaders ("programs") can have side effects instead of just generating vertices and colouring pixels. In particular, shaders can write into any area of a texture, similar to "RWTexture" in DirectX. Atomic counters can be used, for example, to collect pixels for transparency calculations in lists, like the "interlocked" function in DirectX.

In time for the presentation, graphics card manufacturers AMD and NVIDIA published drivers compatible with OpenGL 4.2. The NVIDIA drivers are under development and AMD’s are still at beta status. Windows, Linux, Solaris and FreeBSD versions of the NVIDIA driver are available. For AMD, just Windows and Linux drivers are available.

WebGL, which allows web sites to access OpenGL capabilities using JavaScript, will also see a bug fix release, version 1.0.1, "probably in the fall." Security is reportedly the highest priority with this release, for example, using watchdog timers to prevent denial-of-service-attacks. NVIDIA also showed WebGL running on a mobile device, an Android tablet, for the first time.

OpenCL is a programming interface that enables multicore graphics chips to perform general calculations. The standard could become available on the first smartphones and tablets this year. WebCL, a planned JavaScript version for browsers, also reportedly focuses on security.

(Jörn Loviscach / djwm)

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