OpenGL 4.1 Specification Is Here

The Khronos Groups has released the new OpenGL 4.1 on Monday, July 26 at the SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Graphics) conference. The new spec brings even tighter integration with mobile OpenGL ES and OpenCL Application Programming Interfaces as well as tapping deeper into the graphics performance on both Macs, PCs and mobile devices, especially on the iPhone, iPod and iPad.

The OpenGL standard serves as the software that steers graphics controller in devices across multiple platforms by allowing those devices to use the graphics hardware in a standardized fashion. Apple has definitely used the standard in its software offerings and has made it an increasing part of its development process. This is evident in Apples Mac OS X: Leopard offering with OpenGL 2.1 and the 3.x support provided in Snow Leopard, for example.

The latest installment of the OpenGL standard offer various improvements and enhancements¦

  • The ability to query and load a binary for shader program objects to save re-compilation time
  • The capability to bind programs individually to programmable stages for programming flexibility
  • 64-bit floating-point component vertex shader inputs for higher geometric precision
  • Multiple viewports for a rendering surface for increased rendering flexibility
  • The ability to set stencil values in a fragment shader for enhanced rendering flexibility
  • New callback mechanisms to receive enhanced errors and warning messages

The new standard also adds full compatibility with the mobile OpenGL ES 2.0 standard used in device like the iPhone, iPad and iPod. With this feature, developers can more seamlessly port their projects from mobile to desktop platforms. New extensions added to the standard also allow synchronization of objects to OpenCL event objects for better exchange and use of data with the OpenCL spec.

Hardware vendors are already bringing support for the new technology into their offerings. Barthold Lichtenbelt, Senior Manager of Core OpenGL at NVIDIA issued a press release announcing the implementation of the new specification in the graphic chips makers designs.

“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.”

Ben Bar-Haim, Corporate Vice President of software at Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), the acquirer of the graphics hardware maker ATI made congruent statements saying AMD/ATI “plans to support OpenGL 4.1 in an upcoming driver release” for their hardware configurations.

OpenGL began back in the 80s at the premium graphics hardware maker SGI (Silicon Graphics Incorporated). OpenGL was then made an open-sourced specification in the preliminary 90s, but was shadowed over by Microsofts Direct3D standard. The tech nearly dissolved completely until Apple discounted QuickTime 3D and fully embraced the OpenGL standard which it now uses in almost all of it offerings. Apples continued use of the technology has propelled it in to the limelight of technology as Sonys Playstation 3 and Nintendos Wii gaming consoles all excessively use OpenGL.


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