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.
For Windows and Linux
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.
Learn more about Vulkan 1.3
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.
Learn More About Vulkan and NVIDIA
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).
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.
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.
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.
Vulkan Developer Tools
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.Learn More
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.Learn More
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.Learn More
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
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.Watch Video
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.Watch Video
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.Watch Video
- [GTC Fall 2020] Cross-Platform Ray Tracing - Migrating from DXR to Vulkan
- [GTC 2020] Ray Traced Reflections in Wolfenstein Youngblood [S22694]
- [GTC 2020] NVIDIA Vulkan Features Update - including Vulkan 1.2 and Ray Tracing [s21770]
- [GTC 2020] ProVR: Vulkan and OpenGL Using Quadro GPUs [s21197]
- [GTC 2020] Vulkan and OpenGL Q & A [CWE21750]
- [GTC 2020] Khronos Cross-Platform Standards Update: Vulkan, SPIR-V, OpenXR, glTF and OpenCL [S22158]
- [GTC 2020] Multi-GPU Real-Time Rendering Techniques [s21741]
- [GTC 2020] Ray Traced Reflections in Wolfenstein Youngblood [S22694]
- [GTC 2020] CUDA and Ray Tracing Developer Tools [CWE21165]
- [GTC 2020] Real-Time Ray-Traced Ambient Occlusion of Complex Scenes using Spatial Hashing [S22170]
- [GTC 2019] NVIDIA Vulkan Features Update - Turing Architecture Features [s9909]
- [GTC 2019] NVIDIA VKRay - Ray Tracing in Vulkan [S9833]
- [GTC 2019] Vulkan 1.1 Features for Professional VR and Turing VRWorks [S9891]
- [GTC 2019] NVIDIA Nsight Graphics:Vulkan Profiling and Debugging [S9661]
- [GTC 2019] Real-time Path Tracing and Denoising in "Quake 2" 
- [GTC 2018] Khronos standards update: Vulkan, GLTF, OpenGL and OpenXR for cross-platform VR/AR [S8880]
- [GTC 2018] NVIDIA RTX: Enabling Ray Tracing in Vulkan [S8521]
- [GTC 2017] Vulkan Technology Update [S7191]
- [GTC 2016] Khronos API Standards Update: Including Vulkan and SPIR-V
- [GDC 2016] High-Performance, Low-Overhead Rendering with OpenGL and Vulkan (slides and video)
- [GDC 2016] Vulkan and NVIDIA The Essentials (slides and video)
- [Siggraph 2015] Vulkan on NVIDIA GPUs (slides, video)
- [GTC 2015] Khronos API Standards Update: Including Vulkan, OpenCL 2.1 and SPIR-V (Video)
- [NVIDIA Vulkan Training Day]NVIDIA Vulkan Training Day
- [Khronos Group Vulkan Webinar] Khronos Group Vulkan Webinar
- NVIDIA Vulkan Developer Driver for Khronos Vulkan Spec update 1.0.54
- NVIDIA GDC Vulkan Driver available now!
- Driver and New Sample for VK_NVX_device_generated_commands
- Vulkan Device-Generated Commands
- Getting Vulkan Ready For VR
- What's your Vulkan Memory Type?
- Reading Between The Threads: Shader Intrinsics
- Vulkan Multi-threading at Khronos Munich Chapter Meeting
- Engaging the Voyage to Vulkan
- Vulkan Shader Resource Binding
- Vulkan Memory Management
- OpenGL like Vulkan
- Transitioning from OpenGL to Vulkan
- Tales from the NVIDIA Vulkan Early Access Program
- NVIDIA Corporate Blog Announcing Vulkan
Vulkan Community Resources
- Vulkan Home Page at Khronos.org
- LunarG Vulkan SDK
- RenderDoc Graphics Debugger
- Vulkan GPU Hardware Database
- Khronos Vulkan Educational Resources
- GLFW - Cross Platform API for creating windows and contexts