GDC 15: Imagination Technologies Shows Vulkan Driver

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 7, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: vulkan, PowerVR, Khronos, Imagination Technologies, gdc 15, GDC

Possibly the most important feature of upcoming graphics APIs, albeit the least interesting for enthusiasts, is how much easier driver development will become. So many decisions and tasks that once laid on the shoulders of AMD, Intel, NVIDIA, and the rest will now be given to game developers or made obsolete. Of course, you might think that game developers would oppose this burden, but (from what I understand) it is a weight they already bear, just when dealing with the symptoms instead of the root problem.

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This also helps other hardware vendors become competitive. Imagination Technologies is definitely not new to the field. Their graphics powers the PlayStation Vita, many earlier Intel graphics processors, and the last couple of iPhones. Despite how abrupt the API came about, they have a proof of concept driver that was present at GDC. The unfinished driver was running an OpenGL ES 3.0 demo that was converted to the Vulkan API.

A screenshot of the CPU usage was also provided, which is admittedly heavily cropped and hard to read. The one on the left claims 1.2% CPU load, with a fairly flat curve, while the one on the right claims 5% and seems to waggle more. Granted, the wobble could be partially explained by differences in the time they chose to profile.

According to Tom's Hardware, source code will be released “in the near future”.

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March 7, 2015 | 11:49 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nothing comes abruptly from Khronos, and Imigination, and the rest of the GPU parties concerned have representation on the Khronos group's committees, and board. The drivers/SDK from Imagination probably has been in parallel development with Vulkan, same for the other GPU makers. Gaming System developers have no reason to worry, as the SDK developers for each GPU company have made their on libraries for the Game developers to include in the tool chains of their gaming engine's SDKs. The gaming engine software engineers, not the scripters, have probably been aware of the Vulkan VM/API for as long as it was in development, via membership it the Khronos committees, or outside that via testing builds since day one of Khronos' Vulkan development. The SPIR-V IL bytecode was already in use for OpenCL, and now its use in OpenGL/other, parallels the HSAIL bytecode LLVM of the HSA foundation in scope.

Vulkan will allow for both graphics and GPGPU workloads to be simultaneously worked on, so there is some HSA aware aspects to the Vulcan VM/API. Who would not want more power over the metal, and when have there not been SDKs, and tool chains to make new features easily accessible to game developers. There's a big difference between the skill sets of gaming system software developers, and the average gaming scripter/programmers, the gaming engine systems software engineers have advanced degrees in their fields, the scripters that script that games rely on the gaming engine system software engineers to do the really difficult work(making the gaming engine API work with the Driver/API) and creating the scripting methods for the scripters to use.

March 8, 2015 | 01:14 PM - Posted by serpico (not verified)

lol at the incorrect specular/environment reflections on the tile floor.

March 9, 2015 | 11:06 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

It's probably not the PowerVR wizard GPU, but one of Imagination's standard GPUs. There will have to be some PowerVR Vulkan extensions, and drivers for the PowerVR SKUs with the built in Ray tracing circuitry. What I'd like too see is an some more demos from all the GPU makers, from time to time, as each respective companies' Vulkan API/driver improvement is made. That Includes the intended open sourced Intel drivers for Linux developed by Valve for the Vulkan VM/API.

"Valve has developed its own Intel Vulkan GPU graphics driver for Linux that they intend to open-source."

March 9, 2015 | 12:55 PM - Posted by serpico (not verified)

I didn't mean to imply there is anything wrong with the GPU. Or even the driver for that matter.

The graphics programmer or graphics artist of that scene screwed something up. Hopefully no one gets fired over it, cause it's not a major issue, I just thought it was funny.

March 9, 2015 | 05:26 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

None Intended, there are some software/driver things wrong with Imagination, namely their Linux support. And ARM Holdings is besting Apple in the closed mouths competition concerning the Information about their A72 line of designs.
ARM is insulting many persons' intelligence acting too closed mouthed, and not being forthcoming with the proper amount of data sheet/specifications compared to other CPU/SOC design bureaus.

Intel and AMD are much more forthcoming with the technical details, but Intel is sure slipping on the quick reference details of its integrated GPUs, and CPUs also. Imagination technologies needs to ASAP get their PowerVR wizard's Ray Tracing Vulkan extensions/whatever into as many demos as possible, because Ray Tracing, and Hardware Ray Tracing on the GPU will be the thing to gets all manner of specular/AO/others lighting effects approaching what is seen in the natural world.

It does not help that Wikipedia's offerings of full processor pinouts and details of past/present CPUs/SOCs is damn near worthless! Same for their GPU descriptions/entries, extremely lacking in details!

March 9, 2015 | 05:32 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

edit Wikipedia's offerings of full processor pinouts
To: Wikipedia's offerings of "full processor pinouts"

Those quotes are definitely necessary, Wikipedia is the dogs mangy jewels, when it comes to complete CPU/SOC/GPU listings, and specifications.

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