New Android graphics extensions power impressive UE4 demo


— 9:30 AM on June 26, 2014

As part of its I/O keynote yesterday, Google revealed the Android Extension Pack, a set of graphics features built into the next version of the OS. These extensions to OpenGL ES add support for tessellation, geometry shaders, compute shaders, and texture compression, among other goodies. They can be used to generate compelling visuals, as the following Unreal Engine 4 demo illustrates.

Despite running on Nvidia's Tegra K1 mobile SoC, the demo uses UE4's "full desktop renderer." It takes advantage of several Extension Pack enhancements in order to provide deferred rendering, physically-based shading, image-based lighting, and HDR tone mapping. The graphics look excellent for something designed to run on mobile devices, though it's likely the demo platform had fewer thermal constraints than typical smartphones and tablets. The video is probably more representative of what's possible in K1-powered set-top boxes, which should give the chip more room to breathe than ultra-slim slates and the like.

The Extension Pack isn't just limited to Nvidia GPUs, of course. Google is also working with ARM, Intel, Imagination Technologies, and Qualcomm. I didn't hear AMD's name mentioned during the presentation, but that firm doesn't really have any mobile offerings designed for Android.

According to Epic founder Tim Sweeney, porting the demo's DirectX 11-class PC content to AEP took less than three weeks. Developers should be able to access the new extensions via Unreal Engine 4 "in the near future." The extensions should also be part of the Android L Developer Preview due out today.

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