Unless you regularly develop video games or other visually-intensive programs, you probably don't know what Vulkan is. That's OK. But if you are in the habit of developing visually complex apps for Android, the news that Google plans to support the Vulkan API is a big deal indeed. And it looks like the company intends to jump into the Vulkan pool with both feet: Google has just hired an entire team of dedicated Vulkan developers and folded them into the Android team.
Here's the gist: Vulkan is a cross-platform, low-overhead graphics API created by a consortium called Khronos (get it?). The advantage of Vulkan over other standards is that it gives developers direct access to GPU hardware, allowing a game to manually manage things like GPU cores and memory. It's more complicated than conventional graphics APIs, but used correctly, it should allow for considerably more efficient use of hardware resources. It's neat enough that Valve has hired a third-party software company, LunarG, to incorporate drivers for the still-unfinished Vulkan into future versions of its Steam OS.
That company has now been split into two teams: a desktop team, sponsored by Valve for the purposes above, and a second team that Google has hired and is bringing into the fold. That's according to a press release from LunarG posted earlier today. Vulkan isn't finished yet, so it's unlikely that full support will hit any Android build before next year's inevitable upgrade to version N, and Android will continue to support the OpenGL and OpenGL ES standards going forward. Most current mid-range and high-end chipsets already have the necessary GPU hardware to support Vulkan.
If Vulkan takes off as a graphics standard (and with support from both Google and Valve that seems fairly likely) it could mean bigger and better video game graphics without unduly taxing mobile hardware, not to mention easier cross-development of games between Android and other platforms.