updated 08:40 am EDT, Wed August 13, 2008
OpenGL 3 Features
Standards backer Khronos Group has published the specifications for OpenGL 3.0, the next major revision to the universal graphics programming format. The new version focuses on high dynamic range (HDR) images and now includes support for 32-bit, floating point data both for depth and rendering buffers as well as for textures. The advance allows for more precise color and also permits more accurate calculation for visual effects.
The upgraded standard will also provide tighter integration with the in-progress OpenCL standard for parallel general computing, Khronos adds. While yet to be specific on details, the organization plans to make OpenGL 3.0's visual components interoperate with OpenCL's more generalized work, which can include physics or other math-intensive tasks. Joining the two gives developers the option of more carefully splitting resources for games and other programs that may require both standards.
The refresh will also allow for quicker turnaround times for future upgrades to OpenGL. While the standard will include all possible functionality in a single set of code, the standard will enable profiles that let hardware manufacturers or software developers use very device- or market-specific features without requiring that others support the same functionality with each update.
Other additions will include the choice of using all-integer or half-floating point data to save memory use, conditional rendering that omits more data that the viewer can't see, and arrays for both textures and vertex points that should be more efficient and ease development.
Taking advantage of OpenGL 3.0 will require both support in hardware and in software, although Khronos promises that many of the video devices used in Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows PCs within the past two years will already support the new features. ATI's parent company AMD, Intel and NVIDIA have all contributed to developing the new standard and already promise future hardware designed for the standard in the future. Neither these hardware designers nor Apple have said when their implementations will appear, although OpenCL is known to be launching with Mac OS X Snow Leopard in mid-2009. Microsoft has typically preferred its proprietary DirectX standard over OpenGL and normally leaves most support to companies producing their own software drivers.
Software-only developers including Diablo III developer Blizzard and Cider creator TransGaming have also participated in defining the third edition of OpenGL.