Vulkan Ray Tracing Final Specification, A First Cross-Vendor, Cross-Platform Standard Released By Khronos Group

Khronos Group has released the final specifications of the Vulkan extension. Alongside Vulkan, there also GLSL and SPIR-V extensions that have received their finalized specifications. This is an important milestone in the area of Ray Tracing because these specifications are the industry’s first open, cross-vendor, cross-platform standard for ray tracing acceleration.

After spending more than six months in a beta release, the final versions of the set of Vulkan, GLSL, and SPIR-V extension specifications have been released by Khronos. These specifications are critical as they seamlessly integrate ray tracing into the existing Vulkan framework. Needless to add, these specifications are applicable to NVIDIA as well as AMD as they are not locked or dependent on a single vendor, which happened to be NVIDIA for quite some time.

Khronos Promises Additional Ecosystem Components Alongside Final Extension Specifications:

Today, Khronos released the final versions of the set of Vulkan, GLSL, and SPIR-V extension specifications. As the name suggests, the specifications attempt to integrate ray tracing into the existing Vulkan framework. This standard is the industry’s first open, cross-vendor, cross-platform for ray tracing acceleration. It can be deployed either using existing GPU compute or dedicated ray-tracing cores.

Vulkan Ray Tracing is familiar to game developers who have used DirectX Raytracing (DXR) in DirectX 12. However, the final standard also introduces advanced functionality such as the ability to load balance ray tracing setup operations onto the host CPU. Although ray tracing will be first deployed on desktop systems with supporting graphics cards, these Vulkan extensions have been designed to enable and encourage ray tracing to also be deployed on mobile. In other words, certain gaming smartphones with powerful CPUs and GPUs could offer some level of ray tracing.

These extensions were initially released as provisional versions in March this year. Khronos has assured partner hardware vendors and software developers, both inside Khronos and from the wider industry, have contributed their feedback. Furthermore, the organization has claimed that today’s release of the extension specifications is just the start of the rollout of Vulkan Ray Tracing.

Over the course of the next months, additional ecosystem components such as shader toolchains and validation layers will be updated with support for ray tracing functionality. This will allow developers to use these extensions in their applications with relative ease.

Khronos has the entire Vulkan Ray Tracing project available on GitHub. The project should eventually lead to the formation of the Vulkan SDK (1.2.162.0 or later) with Khronos Vulkan Ray Tracing support in mid-December. The overall functionality provided by the set of Vulkan Ray Tracing extensions is unchanged since their provisional versions.

The final set of extensions released today include:
Vulkan extension specifications

  • VK_KHR_acceleration_structure
  • VK_KHR_ray_tracing_pipeline
  • VK_KHR_ray_query
  • VK_KHR_pipeline_library
  • VK_KHR_deferred_host_operations

SPIR-V extensions specifications

  • SPV_KHR_ray_tracing
  • SPV_KHR_ray_query

GLSL extensions specifications

  • GLSL_EXT_ray_tracing
  • GLSL_EXT_ray_query
  • GLSL_EXT_ray_flags_primitive_culling

Khronos has a detailed blog post offering more information.

Alap Naik Desai


A B.Tech Plastics (UDCT) and a Windows enthusiast. Optimizing the OS, exploring software, searching and deploying solutions to strange and weird issues is Alap's main interest.