OpenGL ES 30 and OpenGL 43 squeeze textures to the limit, bring OpenVL along for the ride

Mobile graphics are clearly setting the agenda at SIGGRAPH this year -- ARM's Mali T600-series parts have just been chased up by a new Khronos Group standard that will likely keep those future video cores well-fed. OpenGL ES 3.0 represents a big leap in textures, introducing "guaranteed support" for more advanced texture effects as well as a new version of ASTC compression that further shrinks texture footprints without a conspicuous visual hit. OpenVL is also coming to give augmented reality apps their own standard. Don't worry, desktop users still get some love through OpenGL 4.3: it adds the new ASTC tricks, new visual effects (think blur) and support for compute shaders without always needing to use OpenCL. All of the new standards promise a bright future in graphics for those living outside of Microsoft's Direct3D universe, although we'd advise being patient: there won't be a full Open GL ES 3.0 testing suite for as long as six months, and any next-generation phones or tablets will still need the graphics hardware to match.


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Khronos Releases OpenGL ES 3.0 Specification to Bring Mobile 3D Graphics to the Next Level

Next generation mobile applications to benefit from richer 3D feature set and enhanced portability

August 6th, 2012 – Los Angeles, SIGGRAPH 2012 – The Khronos™ Group today announced the immediate release of the OpenGL® ES 3.0 specification, bringing significant functionality and portability enhancements to the industry-leading, royalty-free 3D graphics API (application programming interface) that is used on the majority of the world's smartphones and tablets. OpenGL ES 3.0 provides access to state-of-the-art graphics processing unit (GPU) functionality with portability across diverse mobile and embedded operating systems and platforms. OpenGL ES 3.0 is backwards compatible with OpenGL ES 2.0, enabling applications to incrementally add new visual features to applications. The full specification and reference materials are available for immediate download at http://www.khronos.org/registry/gles/.

"OpenGL ES 3.0 draws on proven functionality from OpenGL 3.3 and 4.2 and carefully balances the introduction of leading-edge technology with addressing the real-world needs of developers," said Tom Olson, chairman of the OpenGL ES Working Group and director of graphics research at ARM.

New functionality in the OpenGL ES 3.0 specification includes:

* multiple enhancements to the rendering pipeline to enable acceleration of advanced visual effects including: occlusion queries, transform feedback, instanced rendering and support for four or more rendering targets;

* high quality ETC2 / EAC texture compression as a standard feature, eliminating the need for a different set of textures for each platform;

* a new version of the GLSL ES shading language with full support for integer and 32-bit floating point operations;

* greatly enhanced texturing functionality including guaranteed support for floating point textures, 3D textures, depth textures, vertex textures, NPOT textures, R/RG textures, immutable textures, 2D array textures, swizzles, LOD and mip level clamps, seamless cube maps and sampler objects;

* an extensive set of required, explicitly sized texture and render-buffer formats, reducing implementation variability and making it much easier to write portable applications.

The OpenGL ES working group at Khronos expects to update the OpenGL ES Adopter's Program to provide extensive conformance tests for OpenGL ES 3.0 within six months, enabling implementers of the specification to gain access to source code for Conformance Tests and to use the OpenGL ES trademark on products that pass the defined testing procedure. This ensures that conformant OpenGL ES implementations provide a reliable, cross-platform graphics programming platform.

Khronos Releases OpenGL 4.3 Specification with Major Enhancements

The Khronos Group today announced the immediate release of the OpenGL® 4.3 specification, bringing the very latest graphics functionality to the most advanced and widely adopted cross-platform 2D and 3D graphics API. OpenGL 4.3 integrates developer feedback and continues the rapid evolution of this royalty-free specification while maintaining full backwards compatibility, enabling applications to incrementally use new features while portably accessing state-of-the-art GPU functionality across diverse operating systems and platforms. The OpenGL 4.3 specification contains new features that extend functionality available to developers and enables increased application performance. The full specification is available for immediate download.

Khronos Releases ATSC Next-Generation Texture Compression Specification

Content developers to benefit from smaller, lower bandwidth textures with higher quality and wider flexibility

August 6th, 2012 – Los Angeles, SIGGRAPH 2012 – The Khronos™ Group today announced the immediate release of the royalty-free, Adaptive Scalable Texture Compression (ASTC™) LDR extension specification, defining a new, highly flexible texture compression scheme for developers using both the OpenGL® ES and OpenGL® 3D graphics APIs. ASTC is an exceptionally efficient compression technology which allows encoding of for a wide variety of texture formats at bit-rates of 8 bits per pixel to below 1 bit per pixel. ASTC is published as a Khronos extension, KHR_compressed_texture_astc_ldr, which is available from t he Khronos website at http://www.khronos.org/registry/gles/.

"ASTC enables deep reductions in GPU memory bandwidth and application memory footprint," said Tom Olson, chair of the OpenGL ES working group. "This new technology offers a huge step up in image quality compared to the leading existing formats."

ASTC was developed under the cooperative process at Khronos and enables the size of textures images used in 3D games and applications to be significantly reduced while being downloaded and stored – saving memory size, access bandwidth and significantly reducing application size.

Aras Pranckevičius from game engine provider Unity 3D said: "ASTC is awesome! Texture compression that is higher quality, lower bitrate and with more control than any existing compression formats? Yes please!"

ASTC supports monochrome, luminance-alpha, RGB and RGBA formats, as well as X+Y and XY+Z formats for surface normals, and provides the flexibility for any format to be encoded at any bit rate. Uniquely, the encoding method is chosen independently for each block of pixels in the image, so that the coding adapts dynamically to most efficiently represent the image region-by-region. Advanced fractional-bit encoding and dynamic tradeoffs between the different types of data in each block means that ASTC outperforms all currently available texture compression schemes in image quality, and GPU power consumption, while processing compressed textures.