Short for Open Graphics Library, OpenGL is a trademark of Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) and is a cross-platform standard and API for 2D and 3D rendering and 3D hardware acceleration first developed in 1992.
OpenGL comes in two varieties. The first is Microsoft OpenGL, which is often included in Windows or the installation software of a graphics card. The second is Cosmo OpenGL, which is designed for computer systems that don't have an accelerated graphics card.
The interface consists of over 250 different function calls which may be used to draw complex three-dimensional scenes; widely used in CAD, virtual reality, scientific and informational visualization, flight simulation, and video games.
OpenGL serves two main purposes:
- Hide complexities of interfacing with different 3D accelerators by presenting a single, uniform interface.
- Smooth over differing capabilities of hardware platforms by requiring support of the full OpenGL feature set for all implementations (using software emulation if necessary).
Today, OpenGL is managed by the non-profit technology consortium Khronos Group.