OpenGL 2.0 Unleashes the Power of Programmable Shaders

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  1. Dave Baumann

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    <p align="center">OpenGL 2.0 Unleashes the Power of Programmable Shaders
    OpenGL Shading Language Enables Software Developers to Program Freely Across Hardware Based on Premier Application Interface</p>SIGGRAPH 2004, LOS ANGELES, Aug. 10 -
    The latest version of the OpenGL(R) specification, incorporating support for the OpenGL Shading Language application programming interfaces (API), was announced today by Silicon Graphics and the OpenGL Architecture Review Board (ARB) at the SIGGRAPH 2004 industry tradeshow. One of the most important and enduring standards in the computer industry, OpenGL(R) 2.0 presents a revolution in graphics by providing high-level access to the programmable features of modern graphics processors and is an important step in creating photo-realistic, real-time 3D graphics.

    OpenGL(R) Shading Language has been extensively field tested for a year within the proven ARB standardization process. Potential applications include cinematic quality images for games, more realistic imagery for training and simulation, better analysis tools for medical visualization, and more true-to-life simulated environments for designing and styling manufactured products.

    Since its introduction in 2003, OpenGL Shading Language has become the most widely supported shading language for developing interactive graphics and visualization applications, with implementations for UNIX(R), Microsoft(R) Windows(R), Linux(R), and other operating systems. This wide compatibility enables developers to readily move their work across most major commercial operating systems and hardware platforms. OpenGL 2.0 fully supports all applications written under the previous versions of the specification.

    "Explosive data growth is driving new uses of visualization," said Paul McNamara, senior vice president and general manager, Visual Systems Group, SGI. "Data analysis, for instance, demands that the results are visually conveyed to minutely fine levels of granularity. With the inclusion of OpenGL Shading Language into the core of OpenGL, developers can be assured every graphics card that is OpenGL 2.0 compliant will showcase this capability regardless of who supports the OS."

    "With the availability of OpenGL Shading Language, OpenGL continues to provide progressive, platform-independent access to the power of today's hardware-accelerated graphics engines," said Rob Gingell, chief engineer and fellow, Sun Microsystems, Inc. "With JSR 231 being introduced last year, Java developers will enjoy an unprecedented set of tools for creating visually exciting applications."

    "Dell's involvement in developing OpenGL 2.0 underscores our commitment to driving standards and delivering technologies that our customers demand," said Kevin Kettler, chief technology officer and vice president, Dell Inc. "Including OpenGL Shading Language in OpenGL core marks a major accomplishment that will deliver new functionality and drive next generation graphics programming."

    New features of OpenGL 2.0 include:
    • Programmable shading. With the new release, both OpenGL Shading Language and its APIs are now core features of OpenGL. New functionality includes the ability to create shader and program objects; and the ability to write vertex and fragment shaders in OpenGL Shading Language.
    • Multiple render targets that enable programmable shaders to write different values to multiple output buffers in a single pass.
    • Non-power-of-two textures for all texture targets, thereby supporting rectangular textures and reducing memory consumption.
    • Two-sided stencil, with the ability to define stencil functionality for the front and back faces of primitives, improving performance of shadow volume and constructive solid geometry rendering algorithms.
    • Point sprites, which replace point texture coordinates with texture coordinates interpolated across the point. This allows drawing points as customized textures, useful for particle systems.
    "3Dlabs trail-blazed both the vision and the creation of OpenGL Shading Language and we are fully committed to the deployment and continued evolution of this critical industry standard," said Neil Trevett, senior vice president of market development, 3Dlabs. "Our professional graphics accelerators ship with industrial-strength support for OpenGL Shading Language that is now included in OpenGL 2.0 to bring full programmability to the most demanding design applications."

    "ATI is proud to have led the workgroup that created the OpenGL Shading Language and its extensions," said Rick Bergman, senior vice president of marketing and general manager, Desktop, ATI Technologies Inc. "This collaborative effort to advance the industry will allow content creators to develop even more realistic rendering both in real-time and offline. ATI has supported the OpenGL Shading Language since 2003 in its products and continues to work with developers to push the limits of what is possible with graphics technology."

    "The widespread availability of key enabling technologies like mainstream 64-bit, PCI Express, and OpenGL Shading Language has made this undoubtedly one of the most exciting years in graphics history," said Nick Triantos, chief software architect, NVIDIA Corporation. "By providing full support for OpenGL Shading Language and three generations of finely-honed, programmable graphics hardware, developers and users have all the tools to create the next generation of visually compelling content and applications today."

    OpenGL Shading Language Developer Session
    The OpenGL ARB is hosting a detailed three-hour session for applications developers wishing to learn how to use OpenGL Shading language in real-world applications from 1-4 p.m. on Thursday, August 12, in Tech Talk Room 2 in the registration area of SIGGRAPH. Admittance is free.

    Most Widely Adopted Graphics Standard
    With more than 60 hardware developer licensees, OpenGL has the broadest industry support of any openly licensed graphics API. In 1992, SGI formed the ARB that now governs the evolution and ongoing development of OpenGL, a technology originally created by SGI as an open, platform-independent standard for professional-quality 3D graphics.

    The 12 voting members of the OpenGL ARB are 3Dlabs, Apple, ATI, Dell Inc., Evans &amp; Sutherland, Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM Corporation, Intel Corporation, Matrox Graphics, Inc., NVIDIA Corporation, Sun Microsystems, Inc. and Silicon Graphics Inc. Other ARB participants include Adobe, Discreet, Id Software, NEC, Quantum 3D, S3 Graphics and the University of Central Florida. In addition to the voting members and participants, OpenGL is universally licensed throughout the graphics hardware developer community. More information on the OpenGL 2.0 API and its supporters will be made available on the OpenGL Web site at

    About OpenGL
    The OpenGL graphics system specification allows developers to incorporate a broad set of rendering, texture mapping, special effects and other powerful visualization functions and provides a graphics pipeline that allows unfettered access to graphics hardware acceleration. Since its introduction by SGI in 1992, OpenGL has become the industry's most widely used and supported 3D and 2D graphics API. OpenGL is supported on all major computer platforms, including AIX(R), HP-UX(R), IRIX(R), Linux(R), Mac(R) OS X, Microsoft(R) Windows(R) 2000 and Windows(R) XP and Solaris(TM). The OpenGL ARB governs the evolution and ongoing development of the OpenGL API. With broad industry support, OpenGL is the vendor-neutral, graphics standard that enables 3D graphics on multiple platforms ranging from cell-phones to supercomputers. OpenGL's consistent backwards compatibility has created a stable foundation for sophisticated graphics on a wide variety of operating systems for over 10 years. OpenGL is constantly evolving state-of-the-art functionality to efficiently support a wide array of applications from consumer games to professional design applications.

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