OpenGL is a cross-platform API that makes it easy to render 2d and 3d graphics between all kinds of devices and computer architectures. Although graphic cards and processors may have a variety of structures, this library was great in that it was able to interface with all of them without any extra work by the developer. OpenGL, created in 1992, has been a staple for game developers and in other fields.
As developers have continued to push the limits of graphics capability on PCs, phones, and TV set-top boxes, some have run into performance issues that prevent them from going as far. As everything is standardized and backwards compatible, it causes some limitations. Complicated driver software introduces overhead and multi-threading is not supported.
The consortium behind OpenGL, Khronos, acknowledges these limitations and has been working on a successor. Vulkan is the successor, and it’s nearing public release. It’s an overhaul of the entire system that introduces a common API across all platforms. It’s introducing support for threads and allowing developers to manage the hardware more directly, which means games will take better advantage of the hardware
Vulkan will be coming to Android; Google is a ‘Promoter’ member of the consortium and has announced that it’ll come to Android. It is not clear whether that will come in the form of an update to the operating system or from an additional library not tied to the system. Hopefully it’ll be published as a library, like Google Play Services, so users can get it sooner. It should work on any device that supports OpenGL ES 3.1, which is most mid-range and high-range phones as well as Android TVs.
A public release means that Google should soon talk more about how they’ll implement the APIs in their operating system. As Vulkan gets supported in more platforms, you’ll see engines like Unity adding support and then games adding support. The end result is that games will have better graphics that perform better.