Renderscript is a component of the Android operating system for mobile devices. It is a low-level API for intensive computation using heterogeneous computing. It allows developers to maximize the performance of their applications at the cost of writing a greater amount of more complex code. It provides the developer three primary tools: A simple general purpose compute API across different system computing hardware, a developer friendly compute API similar to CUDA or GLSL, and a familiar language with C99. It can also be used for 3D graphics, and many improvements have been added in a relatively short amount of time. Android 4.2 added new capabilities to script intrinsics, such as Blend and Blur; as well as ScriptGroups which allow you to chain together related Renderscript scripts and execute them with one call.
Most recently, Google added Filterscript,which is a subset of Renderscript that allows developers to write their image processing operations in Filterscript using the standard Renderscript runtime API, but within stricter constraints that ensure wider compatibility and improved optimization across CPUs, GPUs, and DSPs. Filterscript is a less precise in terms of numeric datatype precision, and more cross device compatible subset of Renderscript--and should not be mistaken for a Renderscript replacement technology. 1
- The API was first published with the Android Honeycomb API release
- It consists of a "computing" API
- Intended for programmers who want to coax the last ounce of performance from their hardware
- Accessed using a C-based scripting language
Application code needs to be able to run across all devices, even those with radically different hardware. ARM currently comes in several variants — with and without VFP, with and without NEON, and with various register counts. Beyond ARM, there are other CPU architectures like MIPS architecture or x86, and both those architectures includes several GPU architectures, and even more DSP architectures.
Renderscript reduces the burden of needing to understand the underlying hardware in order to maximize performance. The API is designed to accommodate tasks that can be efficiently split and run concurrently on the underlying hardware which may be only known at the runtime of the application.
As of Android 4.2, Renderscript has been expanded to run on the GPU in addition to the CPU on supported systems.2
Simplify development as much as possible. Where possible steps are automated to avoid glue code and other developer busy work.
It's these trade-offs that separate Renderscript from the existing approaches on the device, such as Dalvik or the Android Native Development Kit. They should be thought of as different tools intended to solve different problems.
As of Android 4.1, Renderscipt's experimental 3D rendering API has been deprecated, and now exists solely as a compute API.
- Google Developer page
- Introducing Renderscript
- Renderscript Part 2
- Google details low-level Renderscript API for Honeycomb
- Video: Learn about RenderScript from Romain Guy and Chet Haase
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