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Neil Trevett, Khronos—fostering industry cooperation at every level

Picture of Neil TrevettThis story is one of many that was originally posted on Jon Peddie Research. Be sure to read the complete JPR forecast: 2019 was quite a year, 2020 will be even greater

May the APIs be with you

Standards organizations exist to provide a safe space for competitors to cooperate for the good of all. In 2019, Khronos has seen powerful commercial incentives drawing us ever closer forsophisticated, multi-level cooperation, but also external dynamics trying to force the industry apart.

Firstly, the good news, many Khronos working groups have seen significant advances in 2019:

  • glTF has become widely accepted as the equivalent of JPEG for 3D;
  • Vulkan has been adopted by even more platforms— including Google’s Stadia;
  • OpenXR 1.0 has shipped and is beginning to deliver on the promise of AR and VR portability;
  • OpenVX 1.3 has completed the transition of OpenVX from a traditional vision API to seamlessly integrating vision and inferencing;
  • SYCL has been adopted as a key technology in Intel’s oneAPI initiative.
Khronos standardization initiatives in 2019Khronos standardization initiatives in 2019

Furthermore, as tech ecosystems become ever more complex, 2019 has shown us that our standards increasingly need to be used together to solve real-world problems:

  • SYCL provides C++-based heterogeneous acceleration, but relies on SPIR-V to underpin language compilation and uses OpenCL for hardware acceleration;
  • XR applications can use OpenXR for run-time portability, but also need glTF for portable 3D assets to feed those applications;
  • Machine learning systems need exchange formats such as NNEF to feed inferencing run-times such as OpenVX, being accelerated over APIs such as OpenCL.
Khronos compute APIs working togetherKhronos compute APIs working together

2019 has also been a milestone year for Khronos as, for the first time, user communities have joined for a seat at the table to cooperatively build solutions over our standards:

  • The new 3D Commerce working group has welcomed the E-commerce community, working alongside Khronos’ traditional technology company members, to leverage glTF, WebGL and OpenXR to bring 3D Commerce to industrial scale;
  • The Analytic Rendering exploratory group has seen leading visualization users joining hardware and platform vendors to determine whether we can make advanced rendering technologies far more accessible to the scientific community.

Finally, 2019 has seen the ongoing advantages of cooperation encourage liaisons beyond Khronos into sister organizations as we build an industry-wide web of interconnected standards:

  • OGC and Khronos are working together to enable the widespread use of 3D in geospatial applications;
  • W3C is working with Khronos to build the next generation of 3D and XR in the Web and to leverage glTF as common format that all browsers can understand;
  • Khronos is working with many groups inside ISO, including enabling glTF to bring widely accessible 3D to PDF files.
DiagramglTF standard for portable 3D assets demonstrating the power of a cooperative ecosystem

But at the international level, all of this cooperative progress could be overshadowed by rising forces encouraging the tech world to divide into East and West. To many of us working in the field of cooperative interoperability standards, this seems a huge backwards step from eradicating needless industry friction and inefficiencies. Khronos is committed to playing whatever role it can in leveraging open standardization to keep international cooperation alive and well.

Looking forward to 2020, Khronos is going to be busy as we gather real-world feedback on key new initiatives, approaches, and deployments:

  • Vulkan Safety Critical (SC) is working to bring GPU graphics and compute to markets such as automotive, robotics, and avionics that need streamlined system safety certification;
  • The Vulkan Working Group is standardizing new 3D rendering techniques such as ray tracing and mesh shaders that will enable new levels of realism and performance;
  • Languages and compilers are becoming increasingly important in standards for graphics, inferencing and compute. Khronos will continue to build out the open source ecosystem around SPIR-V, including an increasingly close collaboration with LLVM;
  • A related growing trend is the use of Intermediate Representations (IRs), such as LLVM and SPIR-V, to enable users with their language of choice—wherever they need to deploy it. The open source clspv compiler for deploying OpenCL C on Vulkan, and MoltenVK to bring Vulkan apps to Apple platforms are great examples;
  • For several Khronos standards, such as OpenCL and OpenVX, the need for deployment flexibility, i.e., the ability to ship market-targeted feature sets while being conformant, is becoming more critical to adoption than new functionality. We will be eagerly seeking user feedback on the mechanics of making that a reality.

Looking further out into 2021–22: 

  • Machine learning uses and technology will continue to rapidly evolve. Standards organizations will be carefully evaluating when there is enough stability to make more interoperability standards practical and valuable, enabling the industry to move from monolithic, often open source implementations to increasingly cross-platform, cross-vendor ML stacks;
  • The technology and constellation of standards to enable ever more accessible HMD-based augmented reality will continue to evolve. Market growth will continue to be in enterprise, whereas the engineering and social barriers to widespread head-worn consumer AR will still not be solved;
  • 5G edge servers will begin to provide a significant new path to deployment for on-prem AR, visualization, and compute applications. Standards such as Vulkan and OpenXR should be receptive to user requirements that these new deployment architectures generate.

Neil is Vice President of Developer Ecosystems at Nvidia where he helps enable applications to take advantage of advanced GPU and silicon acceleration. Neil is also the elected President of the Khronos Group, where he initiated the OpenGL ES standard now used by billions worldwide every day, helped catalyze the WebGL project to bring interactive 3D graphics to the Web, fostered the creation of the glTF standard for 3D assets, chairs the OpenCL working group defining the open standard for heterogeneous parallel computation, and helped establish and launch the new-generation Vulkan API. Before Nvidia Neil was at the forefront of the silicon revolution bringing interactive 3D to the PC, and he established the embedded graphics division of 3Dlabs to bring advanced visual processing to a wide range of non-PC platform.

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