Khronos upgrades standard audio and multimedia APIs

Consortium seeks to provide standard software development technologies for mobile and embedded devices

Khronos Group released on Tuesday upgrades to its OpenSL ES specification for high-performance, low-latency audio and its OpenMax AL specification for multimedia applications on mobile and embedded devices.

Featuring APIs, version 1.1 of the two royalty-free standards were championed by the organization as advancements in mobile computing for developers. "The key things about these new APIs is they should enable hardware acceleration and they are cross-platform," said Khronos President Neil Trevett, who also is vice president of mobile content at Nvidia, during a Khronos event in San Jose Jose, Calif. Khronos is an industry consortium developing standards for capabilities such as graphics and dynamic media on platforms and devices.

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OpenSL ES, for Open Sound Language, Embedded System, is "an API for  you to harness advanced audio in a mobile device," such as a phone or tablet, Trevett said. "Without this, the audio API domain is very fragmented," with developers having to use different APIs on different systems.  

OpenSL ES 1.1 enables "psychoacoustically" enhanced 3D audio across a range of applications, such as gaming, video conferencing, music, and ringtones, Khronos said. It also offers advanced stereo and MIDI functionality.

Khronos has scored a critical victory for OpenSL ES 1.1 in that is has the support of Google Android.  "Obviously, Android adoption is a pretty significant win," Trevett said. Version 1.1 enables  high-end 3D environmental audio, providing use cases like a soundscape in which headphones could be used for positioning audio objects in 3D games. 

In addition to highlighting 3D performance, version 1.1 of OpenSL ES offers buffer queues, content pipes, and explicit object ordering. Khronos expects more adoption by other smartphone vendors, anticipating OpenSL ES will be supported on more than 50% of smartphones by 2014.

OpenMax AL (Application Layer)  1.1 is cross-platform C-language API providing such capabilities as controlling player and recorder objects and connecting them to input and output objects like content readers. Recording of audio and video is supported as well as image capture. Also unveiled Tuesday was OpenMAX AL Digital TV Extension, an API for digital TV-related applications on mobile and embedded devices.

"The problem that we're seeking to solve with OpenMax AL is one that has plagued the industry for quite a while," which is streaming media portability, said Yeshwant Muthasamy, chair of the OpenMax AL working group at Khronos and a technology manager at Nokia. OpenMAX AL features easy-to-use high-level access to rich multimedia functionality and is intended for systems integrators.

Version 1.1 of OpenMax AL 1.1 features metadata support for streaming playback, finer-grained radio control, and improved error handling.

Khronos Group bills itself as offering "open standards for media authoring and acceleration." Members include companies such as AMD, Apple, Google, Intel, Nokia, and Oracle. Other Khronos technologies include OpenGL ES, which is a cross-platform API for 2D and 3D graphics, and OpenCL, for parallel programming of heterogenous systems.

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This story, "Khronos upgrades standard audio and multimedia APIs" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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