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WebGL spec goes 1.0, WebCL coming

updated 12:50 pm EST, Thu March 3, 2011

WebGL spec final with Apple, Google, Mozilla, more

The Khronos Group used the second day of the Game Developer Conference to post the finished, 1.0 spec for the WebGL standard. Its language brings OpenGL ES 2.0 visuals to browsers that can recognize WebGL in HTML5 and JavaScript. A suitably equipped browser can play real, 3D games with pixel shaders and other more modern visuals without having to use a plugin, even on phones and tablets.

It's potentially more advanced than a plugin since it can merge regular web code with 3D to create apps that wouldn't work in a mostly fenced-off environment such as Flash.

The approach is already in use in the stable versions of Chrome 9 and is in beta or nightly versions of Apple's Safari, Mozilla's Firefox 4 and Opera. Microsoft is so far the only holdout and has been pushing its proprietary DirectX acceleration in Internet Explorer 9.

Along with the pure graphics technology, Khronos has also planned a new, general-purpose computing equivalent known as WebCL. The compute language would let a browser use JavaScript to trigger parallel computing using the graphics chip, giving many of the features of OpenCL to a web browser. The mew format could improve the performance of games and videos on the web by offloading some of the work to the video hardware or a spare core in the main processor.

The working group is still in the formative stages and is seeing requests for contributing companies, but it's likely to have Apple's backing. Apple was a key architect of OpenCL and has the only mainstream OS with the feature. WebCL could give the iPhone and iPad better performance on hardware that supports it. The PowerVR SGX543 believed to be in the iPad 2, and eventually the iPhone 5, should have some OpenCL support and might convert quickly to WebCL if iOS gets support.

by MacNN Staff



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