One Month In: Where Is The Vulkan Graphics API Headed?

When AMD announced the Mantle API, it shook up the graphics industry because developers realized that they could have a low-level, low-overhead API. About a year ago, the Khronos group (the same group that made OpenGL) announced that it would be working on its own such graphics API, called Vulkan. Fast-forward a year, and exactly one month ago the Khronos group finally announced version 1.0. Since that day, a few developments have taken place, but nothing major just quite yet.

The idea was that on the day itself, vendors would have their drivers ready, the API would be available (in more than just a PDF spec), and developers from various parties could get straight to work implementing Vulkan in whichever project they wanted to. That did happen, but not entirely according to plan.

One week after the announcement, Nvidia sent out an update to Shield Android TV that included Vulkan Support. Following that, it took another two weeks for Nvidia to announce the desktop driver version 364.47. Unfortunately, that driver appeared to cause system instabilities among its users, so two days later it was pulled, now the 364.51 version of the driver appears to be clean. And it's available right now with WHQL certification.

On March 10, AMD posted its Crimson Edition 16.3 software, also with Vulkan support.

Two days ago, Kishonti added Vulkan support to its GFXBench 5.0 (together with VR benchmarks), and Imagination showed off the Sunset Vista demo that is based on the Vulkan API. Yesterday, that teaser was followed up with the PowerVR V4.1 graphics SDK announcement.

In the meantime, silently, Intel also outed a beta driver for Intel HD graphics with Vulkan support.

So, although we’re in the middle of GDC, we haven’t seen any games with Vulkan support. On the day that the Vulkan API was announced, you could download a version of the Talos Principle that included a Vulkan backend, but that was it.

Various game developers have already announced that they are working on game engines and SDKs with Vulkan support. However, gaming isn’t the only place where we’ll see Vulkan being implemented. Two weeks from now, we will be attending Nvidia’s GTC (GPU Technology Conference) in San Jose, where we will pay extra attention to all the other places where the graphics API will be implemented.

Think of uses such as self-driving cars, in-vehicle infotainment systems, research purposes, robotics, medicine, and more. Although on paper, Vulkan shows excellent potential for benefits in games, we believe that it will play the strongest role behind the scenes, in places where you ordinarily wouldn’t think to look for it.

Follow Niels Broekhuijsen @NBroekhuijsen. Follow us @tomshardware, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • rwinches
    So we mention Mantle API but don't credit it's contribution to Vulkan API.

    From Wiki

    "Vulkan is derived from and built upon components of AMD's Mantle API, which was donated by AMD to Khronos with the intent of giving Khronos a foundation on which to begin developing a low-level API that they could standardize across the industry, much like OpenGL."
  • I hope more game publishers support Vulcan API so they can target Linux as well so we can all switch from Windows 10 Abomination to something else when it comes to gaming.
  • cptnjarhead
    Quote:
    I hope more game publishers support Vulcan API so they can target Linux as well so we can all switch from Windows 10 Abomination to something else when it comes to gaming.

    Windows 10 runs all my games better than 7, for me anyway. Once DX12 games start coming out, Win10 will be the preferred gaming platform for gamers and devs. Vulcan has legs, but nothing like DX12 in the PC world. Now they have a better chance on the mobile market, MS is trying to create their own Win10 ecosystem along with DX12, but unless i can install it on any device i want, it will not compete with Vulkan, because it is platform agnostic.