OpenGL 4.0 gets announced

GDC 2010 Specification available now

3D API’S MIGHT not be the most exciting thing in the world, but without them we wouldn’t have any kind of 3D graphics which would make computers a lot less fun and a lot less useful for many users around the world. Khronos has announced its latest version of OpenGL which simply gets a version bump to 4.0.

Although releasing a specification and an actual API isn’t quite the same thing, at least we know what to look forward to once the API is released. Key features of OpenGL 4.0 include performance, quality and flexibility enhancements, especially targeting tessellation and double precision shaders as well as tighter integration with OpenCL.

A summary of new features can be found below:

  • two new shader stages that enable the GPU to offload geometry tessellation from the CPU;
  • per-sample fragment shaders and programmable fragment shader input positions for increased rendering quality and anti-aliasing flexibility;
  • drawing of data generated by OpenGL, or external APIs such as OpenCL, without CPU intervention;
  • shader subroutines for significantly increased programming flexibility;
  • separation of texture state and texture data through the addition of a new object type called sampler objects;
  • 64-bit double precision floating point shader operations and inputs/outputs for increased rendering accuracy and quality;
  • performance improvements, including instanced geometry shaders, instanced arrays, and a new timer query.

The only problem is that there’s no hardware support for OpenGL 4.0 and it will most likely take at least a generation before we’ll see hardware support. Due to this Khronos has released an OpenGL 3.3 specification that is set to enable many features of OpenGL 4.0 on older hardware. This should make it easier for software developers to create software that is both forward and backwards compatible.

As for hardware support, both AMD and Nvidia are backing the new standards, although interestingly Nvidia claims that its Fermi cards will “fully support OpenGL 4.0 at launch” while AMD didn’t specify if it had any hardware that would work with the new version of OpenGL. Khronos will be showing off OpenGL 4.0 at GDC today and tomorrow for those that have a chance to attend the conference.S|A


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