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December 2009 51 execute across heterogeneous platforms, in- cluding CPUs, GPUs, and other processors. OpenCL includes a C-based language for writing functions and applications that oper- ate on OpenCL devices; it also includes APIs to take advantage of, and control, the hard- ware platform. With OpenGL 3.2, OpenCL and OpenGL continue to be complementary; they can sit side by side and share resources efficiently, including memory buffers. For example, sug- gests Trevett, OpenCL could be used to gener- ate geometry and feed it to OpenGL to create images that can be fed back into the pipeline for further use by OpenCL. OpenCL is yet another example of the way programmability is changing the way applica- tions are developed and the way visual process- ing capabilities can be extended. If a software developer needs compute functionality beyond OpenGL, it can program that itself in Open- CL. It's an expansion of the freedom bestowed on content creators by way of programmable hardware shaders, introduced with DirectX 9 and OpenGL 2.0. Programmable shaders mean you can define a scene with lights, col- ors, geometry, and camera angles, and acceler- ate its creation in the computer with hardware. It was the dawn of customizable computer graphics and the end of uniform, canned ef- fects. Now, OpenCL extends that capability to a broader range of applications and enables heterogeneous computing to boot. e development of OpenGL and Open- CL will continue together, says Trevett and OpenGL chair Lichtenbelt. ey will remain complementary, and it is likely that some of the capability of OpenGL will be absorbed by OpenCL over time as the APIs are evolved to serve broader and broader applications of visual computing for visualization and simula- tion that need tighter and tighter integration of graphics and computing. For Apple and other companies working outside the Microsoft sphere of influence, OpenGL represents a way to develop applica- tions for GPU acceleration without waiting to see how Microsoft will do it in DirectX. Trevett notes that one of the stated goals of OpenCL is to become a significant input to drive GPU design. Apple is one company that doesn't want to have to wait on Microsoft to know what to do next, and it's certainly not the only one. Working in Tandem In other business, the OpenGL group has set up an alliance with the OpenGL ES group to share information about their respective APIs and road maps so the APIs are in sync—setting up the pos- sibility for increasing synergy between OpenGL and OpenGL ES content and tools. Speaking of being in sync, the OpenGL working group has put considerable work into OpenGL 3.2 for improving the ability of de- velopers to work with both OpenGL and Di- rectX; the reality is that many developers do have to write to both APIs, especially if they're developing programs that will run on both Macs and Windows-based machines. Lichten- belt says that often the two APIs differed in trivial and unnecessary ways. For instance, one API might start drawing pixels from the upper right of the screen and the other from the up- per left. ese things are easy enough for pro- grammers to work around, but if they don't have to, why should they? And, OpenGL 3.2 enables OpenGL to adapt to DX conventions so that DX content can be more easily ported to OpenGL platforms. The Future As geeky as all this is, it's really exciting because of all the cool, new capabilities and programs that it enables. e beauty of the Khronos Group is that it doesn't stop with graphics; the group was formed to enable the development of multimedia APIs for all platforms, includ- ing phones, mobile devices, set-top boxes, and whatever else comes down the pike. At SIG- GRAPH, the Khronos Group also revealed some of its plans for the future, including another run at 3D APIs for the Web—taking a fresh and different angle to plug-in based ap- proaches of the past. Khronos' new road map includes WebGL. WebGL will marry a variety of technologies to advance 3D and animation on the Internet by defining OpenGL ES bind- ings to JavaScript and leveraging HTML 5. HTML 5 is the next revision of HTML, the core language of the World Wide Web. It has been designed to enable a broad variety of capabilities in browsers without the need for multimedia plug-ins for 3D and video, such as Flash, Silverlight, and JavaFX. As you might expect, this is creating interesting discussions as various companies fight hard to protect their turf, and even harder to protect their roy- alties for things such as video codecs. Enter Khronos. Royalty-wise, 3D on the Web is an easier problem than video—thanks to the long-standing, open, royalty-free move- m ent built around 3D technology. e power- ful partners within the Khronos organiza- tion have been joined by the major browser vendors and are taking on WebGL as a way to leverage HTML 5 for 3D and animation on the Internet without requiring plug-ins. ere's a fine synergy going on here. e World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) lists Ian Hickson from Google and David Hyatt from Apple as editors of the HTML 5 specifi- cation. Both men's companies are members of Khronos, and both companies want to see the Web become a framework for plug-in free, in- teroperable RIAs. is is truly a case of build- ing it so everyone can come in and play—and could enable rich 3D Web content and user interfaces—unleashing the gates of develop- ers' imaginations to create all sorts of cool stuff that really hasn't been possible until the walls come down. ink about the involvement of Apple in all this, if you haven't already. Apple has made no secret of its dissatisfaction with Flash, and it's at least arguable that what it doesn't like is that the offering belongs to Adobe. An open stan- dard is preferable, and an open standard that Apple helps define is better yet. It will also en- sure that the standard gets really good codecs and that they're updated. Come to think of it, the presence of Google doesn't hurt, either. Both companies need ways for multimedia to run on mobile devices within browsers. Even if HTML 5 and WebGL succeed, there will be healthy competition with propri- etary technologies, such as Flash, Silverlight, Accelerating Innovation OpenGL 2.0 OpenGL 2.1 OpenGL 3.0 OpenGL 3.1 DirectX 9.0c DirectX 10.0 DirectX 10.1 DirectX 11 2004 2006 2008 2009 Today 2010 OpenGL 3.2 Trends & Technologies n n n n

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