Sunday, July 20, 2008

Microsoft Preps to Unveil DirectX 11 Features in Several Days

Unlike DirectX 9, the DirectX 10 will not have a more than four year lifespan as Microsoft Corp. plans to introduce features of DirectX 11 application programming interface at the forthcoming XNA gamefest conference that takes place next week in Seattle, Washington. Moreover, ATI, graphics product group of AMD, and Nvidia Corp. also plan to discuss certain Direct3D 11 features at upcoming conferences.

Microsoft is going to host four sessions dedicated to Direct3D 11 application programming interface (API), according to agenda of XNA conference. The world’s largest software maker plans to introduce the Direct3D 11 graphics pipeline, unveil details about D3D 11 Tessellation capability, new type of shaders called Compute Shader as well as high level shader language 5.0.

According to Microsoft, Direct3D 11 extends and enhances Direct3D 10 with new hardware and API calls. For example, Direct3D 11 introduces the Compute Shader as a way to access this computational capability without so many constraints. It opens the door to operations on more general data-structures than just arrays, and to new classes of algorithms as well. Key features of compute shader include: communication of data between threads, and a rich set of primitives for random access and streaming I/O operations. These features enable faster and simpler implementations of techniques already in use, such as imaging and post-processing effects, and also open up new techniques that become feasible on Direct3D 11–class hardware.

It is interesting to note that Microsoft did not reveal whether DirectX 11 will support processing of physics on GPUs, though, chief of software developers relations at AMD’s graphics product group implied last year that more generalized approach to programming of Microsoft’s next-gen API will indeed open the doors to physics processing on graphics chips.

ATI and Nvidia will also host sessions dedicated to DirectX 11 hardware tessellation at XNA and Siggraph, which indicates that the feature is going to be one of the key capabilities of forthcoming API and DX11-class graphics processing units. It is interesting to note that ATI’s session about tessellation at XNA will cover both “current architectures and Direct3D 11”, which may mean that even the tessellation engine inside ATI Radeon HD 4800-series is not DX11-compatible.

The DirectX 11 should be compatible with both Windows Vista and Windows 7 since Microsoft officially said that it has no plans to change driver model in its next-generation operating system. Therefore, it is logical to expect the arrival of DirectX 11 both ahead or after the launch of Windows 7, as the releases of the two products do not seem to be aligned.

It is unknown when ATI and Nvidia plan to launch hardware compatible with DirectX 11 application programming interface.

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