Khronos Group Brings Ray Tracing to Vulkan SDK, Tools and Drivers

Continuing our coverage of the Khronos Group’s innovations to Vulkan, we bring you the latest from the press desk of the cross-platform graphics API.

Back in November 2020, Khronos released the final Vulkan Ray Tracing extensions and accompanying API specifications. Today, The Khronos Group announced that LunarG has released the Vulkan Software Development Kit (SDK) with full support for the new Vulkan Ray Tracing extensions. This includes Validation Layers and integration of upgraded GLSL (OpenGL Shading Language), HLSL (High Level Shading Language, common to DirectX), and SPIR-V (a binary low-level intermediate language for parallel compute and graphics) shader tool chains. The Khronos open source Vulkan Samples and Vulkan Guide have been updated to illustrate ray tracing techniques. Lastly, production drivers will be shipping from both AMD (Radeon Adrenalin 20.11.3) and NVIDIA (Windows v460.82 and Linux v460.27.03) to allow developers to easily integrate Vulkan Ray Tracing into applications.

Vulkan Ray Tracing extensions makes Vulkan the industry’s first open, cross-vendor, cross-platform standard for ray tracing acceleration. Vulkan Ray Tracing can utilize dedicated Ray Tracing cores such as those found in NVIDIA’s RTX GPUs, GPU compute methods like AMD released in the latest 6000-series Radeon GPUs, and will also be supported by Intel Xe-HPG GPUs when they become available in 2021.

The Vulkan SDK now integrates all the components necessary for developers to easily use the new ray tracing extensions, such as new shader tool chains, without needing them to be built from multiple repositories, and supports ray tracing validation within the SDK validation layers. This will radically simplify IDE setup and configuration and with the tools and samples, truly enable developers to rapidly utilize Vulkan’s powerful cross-platform ray tracing acceleration. Daniel Koch, senior graphics system software engineer at NVIDIA and Vulkan Ray Tracing TSG chair at Khronos stated: “One of the key requests from the developer community was the ability to easily bring DirectX 12 ray tracing (DXR) code to Vulkan. We have achieved that through delivering a carefully designed superset of DXR, and integrating Vulkan Ray Tracing support in the DXC open source HLSL compiler.”

The Khronos Group outlined earlier this year the production-ready use of HLSL in Vulkan was achieved through integrating a SPIR-V backend into DXC, Microsoft’s open source HLSL compiler. With this integration, developers can use HLSL shaders in Vulkan ray tracing applications, including porting ray tracing applications to Vulkan from DXR. Vulkan is also used as a backend for layered implementations of APIs such as DirectX 12. Projects such as vkd3d-Proton, which are used to port DirectX 12 titles to Linux with Valve Proton, will be able to efficiently support layered DXR over Vulkan due to the design of Vulkan Ray Tracing. Wine 6.0 will include support for Vulkan Ray Tracing as well.

With big projects like Steam, Stadia, and Wine relying on Vulkan, this update will rapidly allow developers to port DirectX 12 games that include real-time ray tracing to the Linux and cloud-gaming platforms. It also means fewer barriers to including ray tracing in more games going forward, continuing to propel ray tracing into the forefront of gaming graphics technologies. Large studios such as Crytek, Avalanche Studios Group, 4A Games, Epic Games, Valve, and others will be adopting the new ray tracing extensions in their platforms as well.

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