Two initiatives from Khronos Group to advance open graphics standards

Vulkan is a cross-platform API for modern GPUs; Safety Critical will develop open graphics for environments where safety is mission critical.

vulkan logo 640x320The Khronos Group today announces advancement on two fronts as part of its mission of bringing generally accepted and open industry standards to graphics access and GPU-based compute acceleration. Vulkan is a new API (application programming interface) for cross-platform use of graphics across a wide spectrum of platforms; Safety Critical is a new working group tasked with bringing Khronos standards to markets requiring system safety certification.


The Khronos Group says Vulkan gives applications direct control over GPU acceleration for maximized performance and predictability. The API is on track for implementation and specifications later this year. It has received support from Android, SteamOS, Tizen, and multiple Linux distributions, including Ubuntu and Red Hat. Khronos says the new OpenGL ES 3.2 specification absorbs AEP (Android Extension Pack) functionality “to enhance pervasive graphics capabilities across mobile, consumer, and automotive devices.”  A set of OpenGL extensions will also expose the very latest capabilities of desktop hardware.

Vulkan uses Khronos’ new SPIR-V intermediate language specification for shading language flexibility. The consortium claims Vulkan minimizes driver overhead and enables multi-threaded performance on mobile, desktop, console, and embedded platforms.

In parallel with finalizing the Vulkan specification, Khronos is working to drive an in-depth Vulkan ecosystem to:

  • Reach out to key non-Khronos developers for feedback during specification drafting;
  • Construct an open source Vulkan conformance test suite leveraging and merging with the Android Open Source Project (AOSP) drawElements Quality Program (dEQP) framework to enable direct feedback and contributions from developers to resolve cross-vendor inconsistencies;
  • Develop a Vulkan tools architecture that can load code validation, debugging and profiling layers during development, without impacting production performance.  The first open source, cross-vendor Vulkan SDK is being developed by Valve working with LunarG;
  • Build key SPIR-V tools in open source, including translators from GLSL, OpenCL C and C++, a validator to check the correctness of any SPIR-V file and a SPIR-V assembler/disassembler.

Safety Critical

The Safety Critical working group within Khronos will develop open graphics and compute acceleration standards for markets that require system safety certification. Khronos previously developed the OpenGL SC 1.0 specification that defined a safety critical subset of OpenGL ES 1.0.   The new working group will adapt more recent Khronos standards including OpenGL ES with programmable shaders, and the new generation Vulkan API for high-efficiency graphics and compute. Work on detailed proposals is already underway; Khronos is inviting companies interested in mission critical safety applications to participate “for a voice and a vote in the development process,” says Neil Trevett, president of Khronos Group.

“Visual computing acceleration will be a vital component of many emerging safety critical market opportunities including Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), autonomous vehicles and new generation avionics systems,” adds Trevett, who is also a vice president at Khronos member Nvidia.  “The new Safety Critical working group will build on the experience of shipping OpenGL SC, but now can adapt the latest open standards in the Khronos ecosystem for markets with demanding system certification requirements.”

The Khronos Group is an open consortium of leading hardware and software companies, and actively seeks the participation of all hardware and software developers interested in advancing open standards for the industry. More information on all Khronos specifications is available at: