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SIG: Apple Graphics News—MoltenVK brings Vulkan to Apple iOS and macOS

New MoltenVK can help developers take advantage of Apple’s Metal graphics framework while utilizing the open-industry standard Vulkan API. This means Apple’s developers on iOS or especially macOS are no longer left out of the benefits of utilizing the next-generation, high-performance graphics API.


This week at Siggraph 2016 in Anaheim, California, the Brenwill Workshop, Limited, announced that they will launch MoltenVK during the famed global computer graphics conference and it is coming to Apple platforms.

MoltenVK Can Bring Khronos Group Graphics Standard To Apple Platforms Sans Apple

MoltenVK is an implementation of the open-standards graphics API, Vulkan, a new multi-OS, multi-device future and performance oriented graphics API managed by the Khronos Group, the folks behind such standards as WebGL, OpenGL and OpenGL ES.

MORE: The Future of Graphics: Introducing Vulkan—Heir Apparent to OpenGL / OpenGL ES

MoltenVK runs a Vulkan graphics implementation on top of Apple’s Metal graphics framework on both iOS and macOS. With MoltenVK game and graphics developers get the performance benefits and added debugging and performance tuning capabilities of the Apple Metal framework on iOS and macOS, while maintaining compliance with Vulkan.

Demonstrating MoltenVK

The Brenwill Workshop Ltd discussed and demoed MoltenVK at the Khronos Vulkan Birds of a Feather session at SIGGRAPH earlier this week.

01 - MoltenVK allows developers to bring the power and utility of Apple's Metal graphics API using the open graphics standard Vulkan.

01 – MoltenVK allows developers to bring the power and utility of Apple’s Metal graphics API using the open graphics standard Vulkan.

“Vulkan is the graphics industry’s new open standard for predictable, high-performance graphics, and MoltenVK extends the cross-platform reach of Vulkan to the iOS and macOS platforms”, said Bill Hollings, President of The Brenwill Workshop Ltd., the creators of MoltenVK.

With MoltenVK, developers can move to the next-generation, cross-platform, Vulkan graphics API on iOS and macOS, and build portable graphics applications and games using the modern, industry-standard Vulkan graphics API, running seamlessly across many industry platforms, including iOS and macOS.

To learn more about Molten APIs go here. To specifically learn about MoltenVK click here.

Architosh Analysis

Architosh has written extensively about the new Khronos standard Vulkan API. Several feature articles and interviews have laid out the new cross-platform, program to the metal oriented API. Vulkan is meant to challenge the OS-proprietary graphics API’s that both Apple and Microsoft have pushed for with developers by giving them an alternative that allows for a robust cross-platform and cross-device applicability and wider deployment capability for their games and apps.

In this YouTube video we can see Vulkan Fish Tornado demo running on iOS using MoltenVK. 

While essentially everyone got directly behind the new Vulkan standard, Apple was missing from the action. MoltenVK addresses this loss and it should be a welcome addition to earlier efforts by the company. For example, back in 2015, Molten announced MoltenGL, which essentially brings the performance of Apple’s Metal graphics frameworks to OpenGL ES 2.0 APIs on both iOS and macOS. (formerly called OS X).

MORE: SIG: Apple looks to be going the path of ‘Metal’ for graphics—seems out on Vulkan standard

What MoltenGL meant was that developers of games for iOS, who wrote them in OpenGL ES 2.0, could target macOS without having to re-write those games to support desktop OpenGL. Since no CAD or professional 3D applications actually tend to use OpenGL ES, MoltenGL doesn’t have a lot to offer those with that kind of code base. However, for CAD and 3D developers interested in Vulkan, the new MoltenVK API framework looks particularly interesting. It still means a lot of rewriting however to get from desktop OpenGL to Vulkan but there is another option now out there.

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