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Diamond Partner Q&A: Learn how the Khronos Group is helping XR devs at GDC 2019

At GDC 2019, attendees will have the opportunity to interact with an array of sponsors who help fuel the games industry, including our Diamond Partners, whose support plays an integral role to the success of GDC.

At GDC 2019, developers working in Vulkan or using Open XR standards will get a chance to experience the Khronos developer day, and interact directly with the industry group that's maintaining APIs helping drive the industry today. To give you a sneak peak of Khronos' GDC showings, we reached out to Khronos Group president Neil Trevett for a quick Q&A that you can now read below! 

Would you please introduce yourself, and your role with the Khronos Group to GDC attendees?
I have been the elected president of the Khronos Group for eighteen years. At Khronos, I initiated the OpenGL ES standard, which is now used worldwide by billions every day on their mobile devices. I also helped catalyze the WebGL project to help bring interactive 3D graphics to the web, and I helped establish and launch the new-generation Vulkan and OpenXR APIs. In addition to my role as president, I am chair of the OpenCL working group, whose goal is to define the open standard for heterogeneous parallel computation, and I chair the Khronos Vulkan Portability Initiative to enable Vulkan applications to run on platforms such as macOS and iOS. 

Last but not least, I am the VP Developer Ecosystems at NVIDIA, where I help drive the deployment of APIs and tools that enable applications to take advantage of advanced GPU acceleration. My roles at Khronos and NVIDIA are essentially to be an advocate for developers – working to ease the creation of compelling titles and applications and enable their deployment across multiple platforms.

How has the Khronos group been keeping up with new VR and AR devices that have emerged in the last year and creating standards for developing on them?
VR and AR (we call it XR) devices have two essential needs for hardware standards: 3D rendering and device input/control. Khronos standards, such as OpenGL, OpenGL ES, and WebGL are already driving the pixel rendering for many XR systems – whether they are based on native platforms or the Web. The new-generation Vulkan GPU API provides increased performance and lower latency than OpenGL for demanding XR apps. Vulkan already has significant XR capabilities, including multiview rendering and front-buffer rendering, and is busy building next-generation capabilities, such as variable rate rendering for driving cutting-edge, foveal eye-tracked displays. 

Up to now, there has been no open standard for handling the input and device side of XR. This means that all the XR run-times in the industry have different APIs for accessing the pose of the HMD, tracking controllers, and user inputs and using them to drive interactive XR rendering. This, in turn, means that developers must continually re-port their applications to different XR systems – limiting market growth. Khronos’ OpenXR defines the industry’s first cross-platform XR API standard – which every XR run-time can choose to expose – enabling truly cross-platform portable XR apps for the first time. OpenXR is being developed by a who’s-who of the XR industry.

What kind of questions should developers have when they come to visit the Khronos Dev Day this year?

No questions are out of bounds at a Khronos Developer Day! We are happy to answer high-level questions about industry trends and what issues our standards are evolving to address. We always learn a lot about what developers need at GDC – and that is invaluable feedback for us. We particularly welcome queries about how developers can get more involved in influencing the future of our 3D and XR standards!

And, of course, at GDC the topic of 3D coding and optimization is never far away, and we will have some industry-leading games developers to talk about their development experiences and answer questions about what worked for them, as well as architects from GPU companies to give insights and answer questions on how to best utilize the latest hardware and API features.
What skills do you think programmers need to hone in light of recent advancements in computer technology?

The latest 3D APIs, such as Vulkan, enable a new level of explicit control of GPU hardware; whereas, older APIs, such as OpenGL, present a higher-level abstraction of the graphics pipeline. To effectively drive APIs such as Vulkan, programmers should get to know how GPUs operate, so they can utilize their power for best performance. 

The other technology that is beginning to have a significant impact on gaming development is machine learning. Machine learning will be used to solve a diverse range of hard problems in game development – everything from giving in-game characters more believable behavior to implementing better anti-aliasing. Learning how to train neural networks and deploy accelerated inferencing in gaming titles will soon be essential skills for many game developers.

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