Khronos Group ships tools bringing Vulkan graphics API to iOS and MacOS

in iOS edited February 2018
The Khronos Group has released new open source tools that allows the Vulkan API, a 3D graphics API, to work on iOS and macOS, a move that can make it easier for developers to port games to Apple's hardware from other platforms, while still taking advantage of technologies like Apple's Metal graphics API.

A graph comparing the performance of Vulkan against OpenGL in Dota 2 on various Mac systems
A graph comparing the performance of Vulkan against OpenGL in Dota 2 on various Mac systems

Previously Vulkan has been usable on a number of major platforms, including Windows and Linux on desktops and Android on mobile, but not on macOS and iOS. For these Apple-controlled platforms, developers instead have to use OpenGL and OpenGL ES, older graphics APIs also managed by the Khronos Group, as support for Vulkan wasn't implemented for Macs and iOS devices

Vulkan is an open standard cross-platform API that is meant to be used by developers of games requiring high levels of graphical performance, such as first person shooters, intending to release the games on multiple platforms. The cross-platform nature of Vulkan saves developers from having to learn platform-specific graphical technologies, like DirectX for Windows, as Vulkan handles that communication on their behalf.

Released today by the Vulkan Working Group's Portability Initiative, the free tools are part of a universally portable subset of Vulkan 1.0 that can be run natively over Metal. The main release, the MoltenVK library, translates calls within the Vulkan portable subset to Metal calls, using the open source SPIRV-Cross cross-compiler to translate Vulkan shaders into native code formats.

The Working Group collaborated with game developer Valve, LunarG, and the Brenwill Workshop to produce the MoltenVK library, with Valve already implementing the library in its own software. The popular game Dota 2 has been altered to work with Vulkan on Mac, and Valve has apparently seen significantly higher performance in the game running on macOS compared to the native OpenGL drivers, with players expected to see the change in a free update within the next few months.

"We have been running substantial production loads through the Vulkan tools on Mac, including Dota 2 which is now running faster than the native OpenGL version," said Valve developer Pierre-Loup Griffais. "These efforts are aimed toward reducing development and porting costs for any developer supporting multiple platforms."

MoltenVK is available to all developers for free, without any fees or royalties payable for using the library in commercial applications.

Alongside MoltenVK is the open source LunarG Vulkan SDK for macOS, which can be used by developers to build, run, and debug their applications on Mac. The SDK provides loader and validation layers, used for checking code for correct API usage, with additional tools and features said to be on the way.

Though Apple is counted as a member of the Khronos Group, it has yet to provide its own support for the Vulkan API in either iOS or MacOS, instead relying on OpenGL and Metal. Apple has previously shown some interest in developing a new standard 3D graphics API for the web, including proposing a new Community Group at the World Wide Web Consortium to create one in February 2017, but reports indicate Apple's WebKit team suggested using Metal as the base instead of another pre-existing cross-platform API.


  • Reply 1 of 4
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 1,128member
  • Reply 2 of 4
    So the Khronos Group is a non profit consortium?  Sounds like it...

    I’ve long heard MacOS has been lacking in Gaming Performance.  They’re also behind Linux?

    Khronos Group keep up the good work!  It’s past time Apple achieves parity...
  • Reply 3 of 4
    So the Khronos Group is a non profit consortium?  Sounds like it...

    I’ve long heard MacOS has been lacking in Gaming Performance.  They’re also behind Linux?

    Khronos Group keep up the good work!  It’s past time Apple achieves parity...
    No, the Khronos group is a central Patent management firm that takes multiple Patents and combines them to ultimately create a "Standard" and then charge either the end-user, programmers, or others in the process of using their Patents.  Remember h.264, well the Khronos group allowed everyone to use it for "Free" for a few years so it would become a standard and then started charging everyone to use it.  Ie. BluRay manufacturer.  While it has its benefits, it also has it's disadvantages and this is why Apple has settled on its own technology internally... because would you, as Apple, want to pay a third party group a commission for every Apple computer, iphone and ipad sold, even if only a percentage of user uses technology X? Ie. Khronos becomes the new DirectX standard and Apple is forced by its users to incorporate Vulkan.  Then Khronos, whom manages the Patents turns to Apple and say, "Let's discuss how much you are going to pay our patent owners/inventors" then Apple is forced to negotiations because of these Patents and for every computer, iphone and ipad sold Apple has to pay Khronos $$, which Apple of course will pass that cost to the end users, even if you not a user of Vulkan.

    However, on the flip side, Khronos by gathering and working with multiple Patent holders/inventors can put together better technology for the end user.  Help the Inventor recover money for any corporation using his/her Patent and can help create a Standard to user across multiple devices.  So there are advantages to it.

    Khronos, gets paid by a commission of Royalties collected for managing all of the Patents.  Which includes lawyers, top 1% professional sales folks, insurances, etc. etc. Which is clearly earned.  Khronos isn't an enemy, nor a savor but a legitimate way of doing business, unlike Patent Trolls.

    Patent Trolls, buys Patents (technically, having a Patent assigned to them.) and then just sit on it until a major company clearly makes serious headway into that industry and then out of the blue, sues the company claiming they are using their Patents, even though that Corporation might have been working on the idea for years, spending millions to create a market and advertising, distribution channels, etc., etc. then the Patent Troll claims they want all of the past profits and future profits, normally worth tens of millions of dollars.  This is BS because the Patent Troll on purpose sits and watches companies build markets with products versus taking action immediately.  This is why Inventors and companies HATE Patent Trolls.  Laws need to change because I have seen mom-pop companies be built up and only to be taken down by a Patent Troll, for greed and nothing else.

  • Reply 4 of 4
    Khronos group has nothing to do with H.264 patents, they manage and implement visual graphics standards like OpenGL and OpenCL, which Apple uses (and are royalty-free).  The reason why Vulkan isnt supported by Apple is because it's a competitor to Metal, just like MS does not support anything that competes w/ Direct 3D.
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