Khronos Releases OpenGL ES 3.1 Specification

New version of the royalty-free 3D graphics API used on virtually all smartphones and tablets adds advanced 3D features and integrated GPU computing

SAN FRANCISCO — (BUSINESS WIRE) — March 17, 2014The Khronos Group today announced the immediate release of the OpenGL® ES 3.1 specification, bringing significant functionality enhancements to the industry-leading, royalty-free 3D graphics API that is used on nearly all of the world’s mobile devices. OpenGL ES 3.1 provides access to state-of-the-art graphics processing unit (GPU) functionality with portability across diverse mobile and embedded operating systems and platforms. The full specification and reference materials are available for immediate download at

Registered members of the press are invited to the Khronos Press Conference when Khronos will be providing exclusive access to OpenGL ES 3.1 demonstrations, along with making significant additional announcements relating to OpenCL™ and WebCL™. The event takes place on Wednesday, March 19th at 10:00 AM at Moscone Center in the Khronos meeting room #262 on the South Mezzanine Level, near the press room. Please RSVP to

“OpenGL ES 3.1 provides the most desired features of desktop OpenGL 4.4 in a form suitable for mobile devices,” said Tom Olson, chair of the OpenGL ES working group and Director of Graphics Research at ARM. “It provides developers with the ability to use cutting-edge graphics techniques on devices that are shipping today.”

Key features of the OpenGL ES 3.1 specification include:

  • Compute shaders – applications can use the GPU to perform general computing tasks, tightly coupled with graphics rendering. Compute shaders are written in the GLSL ES shading language, and can share data with the graphics pipeline;
  • Separate shader objects – applications can program the vertex and fragment shader stages of the GPU independently, and can mix and match vertex and fragment programs without an explicit linking step;
  • Indirect draw commands – the GPU can be instructed to take draw commands from its memory rather than waiting for commands from the CPU. For example, this allows a compute shader running on the GPU to perform a physics simulation and then generate the draw commands needed to display the results, without CPU intervention;
  • Enhanced texturing functionality – including multisample textures, stencil textures, and texture gather;
  • Shading language improvements – new arithmetic and bitfield operations, and features to enable modern styles of shader programming;
  • Optional extensions – per-sample shading, advanced blending modes, and more;
  • Backward compatibility with OpenGL ES 2.0 and 3.0 – programmers can add ES 3.1 functionality incrementally to working ES 2.0 and 3.0 applications.

“The OpenGL family of APIs including OpenGL ES, OpenGL and WebGL have proven themselves as the foundation for 3D graphics on mobile devices, PCs and the Web – this OpenGL ES release is yet another graphical milestone that will enable billions of users to experience new levels of realism and interactivity on pervasive, mainstream devices,” said Neil Trevett, president of the Khronos Group and vice president of mobile ecosystem at NVIDIA.

Developer Session at GDC 2014 – “OpenGL ES 3.1: A Developers Overview”

Attendees at the San Francisco Game Developer Conference are invited to attend the Khronos DevU session “OpenGL ES 3.1: A Developers Overview” taking place at 5:00pm on Wednesday, March 19th in the Khronos private meeting room (#262 on the South Mezzanine Level). Space is limited and is available on a first-come first served basis. Other Khronos API DevU sessions are also available, for a full listing see:

“The certain future of graphics is mobile and with multiple advanced features the Khronos OpenGL ES 3.1 specification takes a significant step forward for mobile and embedded graphics; bringing mobile platforms closer in line with performance and feature set expectations of the very capable desktops and consoles of years past,” said Jon Peddie, president of JPR. “The widespread adoption by semiconductor manufacturers and developers has made OpenGL ES the technology of choice for mobile application development.”

Industry Support

The OpenGL ES 3.1 specification is the result of significant and thoughtful input from the Khronos OpenGL ES Working Group.

“Mobile handset manufacturers and software developers are competing in an increasingly fierce market and features such as high-performance graphics make a huge difference in building customer engagement and satisfaction,” said Jem Davies, Vice President of Technology at ARM. “Khronos has an important role in creating industry-wide standards and ARM, as a promoter member, is playing an active role in its OpenGL ES working group. Historically, ARM has led the way in the development of mobile APIs on ARM Mali™ GPUs and we believe OpenGL ES 3.1 is a tangible step forward allowing developers to take full advantage of the graphics features in the OpenGL standard while maintaining the efficiency required to deliver these features to mobile users worldwide.”

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