Linux for Chromebooks has come a long way since Google introduced it in Chrome OS 69 a couple of years ago. On supported devices, it opened the door to an extensive library of desktop apps for users, like video editing tools and IDEs. GPU acceleration was an important milestone that made graphic intensive Linux app usable on Chrome OS. This is thanks to Virgil 3D, a component that allows the Linux container to tap into the hardware's GPU. In exciting news shared by Luke Short from VMware, Google is working on adding Vulkan passthrough into Virgil to improve app performance.
Vulkan is one of the most popular graphics APIs, with cross-platform support, low-level hardware access, and no royalties. Android has allowed games to use Vulkan for years, and Google's new Stadia platform requires all games to use the API. Khronos Group (not to be confused with the Klingon homeworld), the organization responsible for developing Vulkan, has announced a new version that promises to make games even more efficient.
Android 7.0 was the first release to support 'Vulkan,' the cross-platform low-level graphics API designed as the successor to OpenGL. There are a number of Android games and emulators that utilize Vulkan, including the Dolphin emulator, PPSSPP, and 3DMark. Version 1.1 of the API was released in March of this year, and Google has now confirmed that Android P will include it.
The code for Vulkan 1.1 was merged into AOSP last month, so this isn't much of a surprise, but it's nice to get confirmation. The new version adds extensions for multi-view, device groups, HLSL support, and more.
If you've been waiting for Nougat to miraculously appear on your SHIELD Tablet... keep waiting. This is not the update you're looking for, but it's an update nonetheless. There will be minor improvements to both SHIELD Tablets including, but not limited to, an updated Vulkan API and security patches.
The Dolphin emulator is an impressive feat of software engineering. Starting as a GameCube emulator, it later added compatibility for Wii games, due to the similar architecture. Over the years, Dolphin has gradually improved game compatibility; they recently reported that every single retail GameCube game boots. Even accessories like the Wii Remote and Wii Balance Board work perfectly, and experimental Android builds of Dolphin have been in development for years.
Dolphin on Android still isn't as usable as other console emulators, but the fault mostly lies with current Android hardware. Even the Nvidia Shield console, one of the most powerful Android devices on the market, can't run games at full speed.
Unity, if you're not familiar with game development, is a popular cross-platform game engine. Although Unity games can most often be found on PC and consoles, Android games utilizing the engine include Crossy Road, Monument Valley, Lara Croft: Relic Run, and more. Today Unity has announced the Vulkan Renderer Preview, finally allowing developers to use the Vulkan API with their games.
The Vulkan API (not to be confused with the Star Trek planet Vulcan) has been hyped to the moon and back in the gaming industry recently, and for good reason. Based on AMD's Mantle API, it is a new graphics API designed to be cross-platform (much like Unity) and have a low overhead.
The Vulkan graphics API is a big deal for mobile developers, since its direct GPU access allows for complex graphics to be rendered with a considerably lower hit to the processor, and thus a lower overhead on the hardware and battery life. A few devices like the SHIELD family and Samsung's 7 series already supported Vulkan several months ago, but Nougat now features full support for all updated Android 7.0 devices. Developer Super Evil Megacorp, which turned heads last year with its Vainglory mobile MOBA, now has a beta version that uses the Vulkan API.
The SHIELD Tablet is still going strong, right there with the SHIELD Android TV. (The original SHIELD Portable, not so much. Hey NVIDIA, where's that SHIELD 2 you guys were working on?) The original tablet and the slightly newer variant, the K1, were both updated to Android 6.0 a couple of months ago after a rocky start. But for some reason the K1 is getting the latest incremental update first. K1 update 1.2 adds Android 6.0.1, including the security patches from March.