Khronos publishes a range of specs to take GPU computing to the Web, C++

WebCL logoAfter releasing OpenGL ES 3.1 on Monday, the Khronos Group today announced a handful of other specifications for 3D graphics and GPU computation, including WebCL.

Just as WebGL defines a JavaScript API for OpenGL ES 2.0 3D graphics, WebCL defines a JavaScript API for OpenCL 1.1 parallel computation. If WebCL receives the same kind of industry adoption that WebGL has, it will enable mobile developers to perform tasks such as physics calculations in games and image processing, all accelerated by the GPU, or even multiple cores of the CPU.

As with WebGL, WebCL is a fairly low-level API. It works the same way as OpenCL does on the desktop: OpenCL routines need to be written in OpenCL's special C-derived language. This will make it familiar to existing OpenCL developers and enable the reuse of existing OpenCL code, but it's unlikely to be something that traditional Web developers are familiar with.

For WebGL, the solution has been twofold. First, high-level libraries such as three.js have been developed, making 3D programming more approachable. Second, systems such as Emscripten and asm.js have been used to enable traditional 3D programs (including those using Unreal Engine and, soon, Unity) written in languages such as C++ to be compiled in such a way that they will run directly within the browser.

Khronos anticipates that a comparable range of companion technologies will be developed to similarly make WebCL usable.

WebCL does not encompass the full OpenCL spec. Certain OpenCL features (for example, features of memory access and usage) can have security implications, especially when used incorrectly. These features have been limited or removed in WebCL to help ensure that Web content cannot compromise system security.

Not everyone wants to write OpenCL code using the special OpenCL language. Competing GPU-based compute systems, including both Microsoft's C++ AMP and Nvidia's CUDA-compatible Thrust, offer a more streamlined development model, where GPU-based functions can be more or less seamlessly integrated with conventional CPU-based code written in high-level C++.

Aware of this, Khronos has produced SYCL, an API specification that provides C++ compiler developers the tools to integrate their libraries and compilers with OpenCL. With SYCL, compilers will be able to offer the same kind of single-source development, where CPU and GPU code are in the same source files, as found in AMP.

The third and final spec announced today is EGL 1.5. EGL is a little-known specification that's quietly found a role on mobile platforms, including Android. The EGL API defines how software initializes its access to OpenGL ES and OpenCL and how it coordinates between OpenGL and the windowing/display environment. The new version improves interoperability between GL and CL and 64-bit support.

The two big desktop platforms, Windows and OS X, don't (currently) use EGL; instead, those platforms have their own extension APIs (WGL and CGL, respectively) to manage these tasks. The X Window System on Unix similarly has an extension called GLX.; however, the new Wayland windowing system, which is being developed to replace X, uses EGL.

Source: Softpedia

Tags: browsers

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