Vulkan is a new-generation graphics and compute API for high-efficiency, cross-platform access to GPUs. As the industry’s only open standard modern GPU API, Vulkan is unique in enabling developers to write applications that are portable to multiple diverse platforms. Vulkan includes the latest graphics technologies including ray tracing and is integrated into NVIDIA’s production drivers for NVIDIA GeForce, RTX and Quadro solutions on Windows and Linux, NVIDIA Shield and the Jetson embedded computing platform using Android or Linux.

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GeForce and Quadro Drivers
For Windows and Linux
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Vulkan 1.3

The latest version of the Vulkan specification was released in January 2022 and incorporates significant, proven, developer-requested features. NVIDIA shipped full functionality Vulkan 1.3 drivers for Windows and Linux on the day the specification launched. These drivers also support the extended set of functionality in the Vulkan Roadmap 2022 milestone. NVIDIA’s Nsight Graphics and Nsight Systems tools have been updated to support Vulkan 1.3, offering a robust environment with deep support for developers to build and optimize Vulkan games and applications.

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Release of Vulkan 1.3, Public Roadmap, and Profiles

Vulkan at NVIDIA

NVIDIA consistently provides industry leadership to evolve new Vulkan functionality such as ray tracing and DLSS AI rendering and is often the first to make it available to developers. The NVIDIA Nsight suite of development tools, has integrated support for Vulkan, including debugging and optimizing of applications using full ray tracing functionality. NVIDIA ships Vulkan on PCs, embedded platforms, automotive, and the data center. And gamers enjoy ongoing support of the latest Vulkan API changes with older GPUs going back to Maxwell.

NVIDIA ships Vulkan drivers across different products

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RTX Ray Tracing in Vulkan

Vulkan provides cross-platform access to RTX ray tracing acceleration. NVIDIA’s Vulkan drivers support the Vulkan Ray Tracing extensions on all RTX GPUs, and GeForce GTX 1660 with 6GB+ of memory and GeForce GTX 1060+ with 6GB+ of memory. Vulkan support is available now in NVIDIA’s RTX SDKs including Direct Illumination (RTXDI), RTX Global Illumination (RTXGI), RTXMU that reduces memory consumption of acceleration structures and NVIDIA Real-Time Denoisers (NRD).

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DLSS and Vulkan

Every Vulkan Developer can access NVIDIA DLSS on Windows and Linux with support for both x86 and ARM-based platforms. NVIDIA has also added DLSS support for Vulkan API games on Proton, and DLSS-enhanced DirectX titles running via Proton layered over Vulkan, enabling Linux gamers to use the dedicated AI Tensor Cores of their GeForce RTX GPUs to accelerate frame rates in titles such as DOOM Eternal, No Man’s Sky, and Wolfenstein: Youngblood.

Vulkan Video

Harness accelerated H.264 and H.265 video decoding with Vulkan Video – a collection of extensions that tap into the Vulkan API for efficient and scalable video processing.

Vulkan Video is the only high performance, vendor-neutral, cross platform video decode API that offers explicit control over low-level resource management.

Read about Vulkan Video. Check out NVIDIA’s open-source decode sample application here.

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Vulkan sample 1 - glTF scene
Vulkan sample 2 - Toon effect with shading
Vulkan sample 3 - CAD scene
Vulkan sample 4 - Screen-space ambient occlusion

NVIDIA provides a growing collection of Vulkan and OpenGL samples and tutorials with full source code available on GitHub. Developers can download the samples that interest them, from educational introductions to basic Vulkan workflows and extensions, through examples of how to render scenes with high geometric complexity and ray tracing,and on to professional application use-cases. The repository also contains utility code that can speed up Vulkan development.

Learn more with a full list of NVIDIA Vulkan Samples

Vulkan Developer Tools

Nsight Aftermath

NVIDIA Nsight Aftermath SDK

The NVIDIA Nsight Aftermath SDK is a simple library that can be integrated into a game’s crash reporter to generate GPU "mini-dumps" when a GPU hang or exception occurs.

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Nsight Systems

NVIDIA Nsight Systems

NVIDIA Nsight Systems is a system-wide analysis tool for visualizing CPU / GPU interactions to help eliminate GPU idle, stutter and CPU bottlenecks. It can trace Vulkan on the CPU & GPU, interoperating GPU APIs, and many CPU or OS events.

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Nsight Graphics

NVIDIA Nsight Graphics

NVIDIA Nsight Graphics enables developers to debug & profile Vulkan applications. With powerful low-level profiling features such as GPU Trace, it's easier than ever to identify GPU performance issues and optimize with confidence.

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The Path to Ray Tracing in Vulkan

In November 2020, Khronos released the final versions of the Vulkan Ray Tracing extensions that seamlessly integrate ray tracing into the existing Vulkan framework. Vulkan is the industry’s first open, cross-vendor, cross-platform standard that can be used to access RTX ray tracing acceleration.

Alongside the release of ray tracing support in the Khronos Vulkan SDK in December 2020, NVIDIA now ships the Vulkan Ray Tracing extensions in our production Vulkan drivers . All RTX GPUs are supported, together with GeForce GTX 1660 with 6GB+ of memory and GeForce GTX 1060+ with 6GB+ of memory.

NVIDIA has also released Quake II RTX version 1.4 that uses Vulkan Ray Tracing to significantly enhance the visual quality of this well-loved classic running with ray-traced lighting, shadows, and reflections - making Quake II RTX the world’s first cross-vendor ray tracing Vulkan application! NVIDIA releases the full source code on GitHub serving as a great example for developers who want to dive into the details of how this remastering was achieved.

Getting Started with Vulkan Ray Tracing

A tutorial on how to use Vulkan Ray Tracing to create a complete mini-path tracer using the final Vulkan Ray Tracing extensions

A Vulkan-based glTF ray tracer viewer with open source on GitHub

An updated Vulkan Ray Tracing Tutorial using the final Vulkan Ray Tracing extensions

Blog on Vulkan Ray Tracing Best Practices for Hybrid Rendering as used in Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Read about how the 2020.6 release of the NVIDIA Nsight Graphics tool supports Vulkan Ray Tracing

Vulkan Educational Resources

Vulkan NVIDIA Presentations

View presentation on Vulkan Ray-Tracing Tutorial

We'll provide useful examples and resources to make a basic integration of Vulkan ray tracing and traversal in an existing Vulkan raster sample. With the help of an existing online tutorial, we'll review the main steps of a simple ray tracer. From the location of SDKs and drivers to the debugging tools such as Nsight to set up the appropriate environment, we'll lay the foundation for the step-by-step addition and activation of ray tracing. We'll also cover specific topics related to ray tracing, such as any hit shader, intersection shader, reflections, animations, shader record, multiple hot shaders, callable shaders, and ray query.

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View presentation on RTX Advanced Performance Recommendations

We'll cover NVIDIA’s best practices for DirectX12 and Vulkan API usage. We'll describe how to make the most out of these low-level APIs across our range of GPUs and explain how to avoid common performance pitfalls while achieving optimal smooth frame rates.

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View presentation on DevTools for Harnessing Ray Tracing in Games

NVIDIA GPUs are incredibly powerful and with the arrival of DXR and Vulkan Ray Tracing, it's now possible to do Ray Tracing at interactive framerates. Even so, it can be a challenge to ensure that you are fully utilizing the GPU efficiently. In this session, you'll learn about the available tools and features available to developers that can help you take advantage of this incredible innovation to improve the graphics in your game.

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Vulkan Articles

Vulkan Community Resources

From the Archives - Vulkan Launch Materials