We launched the PowerVR Insider SDK 2.10 today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco – a major upgrade that includes support for the latest PowerVR PVRTC2 texture compression format – copies are being exclusively given away on DVD at GDC then made available for download after the show.

With Imagination was at the show and has already lost track of how many times we’ve had to say, “Yes, it’s really free. Completely free. Not time limited. Not freemium. Free.” A conversation then ensues about why we, a hardware GPU designer, do so much for developers without ever trying to monetize our relationship with them — which usually ends with smiling devs and Imagineers alike. (The argument is simple: we help devs make great content, because that content makes people want to get products with our GPU in).

In case you don’t know already the PowerVR Insider SDK is the leading SDK and toolset for mobile 3D graphics development. It fully supports the development of applications using the Khronos OpenGL® ES 1.1 and 2.0 APIs and is an established favourite with more than 28,000 developers world-wide who belong to our ecosystem programme PowerVR Insider.

The SDK includes tutorials, source code, extensive documentation, platform abstraction frameworks and a highly integrated suite of tools. And yes, if you really must you can develop for other GPUs than PowerVR using it (though why would you want to? ; )

Release v2.10 of the PowerVR Insider SDK includes new versions of the PowerVR Toolchain including: PVRShaman with post-processing support and enhanced shader profiling; ‘IntroducingPrint3D’, a new training course demonstrating the much more fine grained control now available in the Print3D tools; PVRTrace with recording and graphical scene analysis; PVRTune with optimised GUI and support for custom counters; PVRScope, a new performance analysis tool that enables developers to embed the power of PVRTune in their own software; and PVRTexTool and PVRTexLib with support for PVRTC2, the new texture compression format being introduced for PowerVR at GDC 2012.

Along with the new SDK we released what we think it an important new piece of developer focused technology, PVRTC2.

The PVRTC texture compression (TC) format is one of the most widely used texture compression formats in the mobile industry today, implemented in more than 600m devices. The PVRTC 2bpp (bits per pixel) format is widely acknowledged as the most advanced TC format in mainstream use today, enabling compression of textures stored within an application by up to 16x compared to their uncompressed form. PVRTC2 is a major upgrade of this technology, adding a wide range of new features.

Texture compression is a fundamental tool used by rasterised 3D graphics applications. It performs a very different job to well-known image or video compression standards such as JPEG, PNG or MPEG. When a video or still image is compressed with a standard technique, the main purpose is to achieve the highest possible compression to minimise data storage.

Graphics applications typically access a large set of different textures during execution, with data within any of those textures being potentially requested at random, and such access is not feasible with traditional image compression. Because of these random access requirements, all texture compression techniques introduce some artefacts, such as loss of colour fidelity or visible blocks.

The important issue is that, for a given target bitrate, those artefacts, are as small as possible. PVRTC2 delivers the best possible image quality at any given bitrate with much less noticeable artefacts than other solutions.

We delivered the first of our GDC sessions today too – ‘Getting Great Graphics Performance with the PowerVR Insider SDK’. Tomorrow (Thursday 8th 14:30-15:30
Room 2014, West Hall, 2nd floor) is a Masterclass in Graphics Technology and Optimization.

PowerVR / mobile developers will probably also be interested in the session Bringing AAA Graphics to Mobile Platforms by Niklas Smedberg of Epic Games (Thursday 10:00-11:00 Room 2002, West Hall, 2nd floor).

More to come as the show unfolds.

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