Hardware accelerated OpenGL is up and running on the Raspberry Pi 2. An experimental driver in the latest version of Raspbian gives enthusiasts of the tiny $35 computer the ability to drastically improve graphic performance, to the point where some basic 3D gaming is possible.
A fan-made video shows glxgears, a simple OpenGL graphics demonstration, running with and without OpenGL support on a Raspberry Pi. The difference is immediately obvious: the animation goes from a stuttering slide show to a smooth 60 frames per second.
The driver that makes this possible is included in the latest version of Raspbian, the Linux-based operating system maintained by the Raspberry Pi team. According to the release notes, users will have to take active steps to enable the new feature.
“This is turned off by default,” the announcement says. “If you want to enable it, you can find it in the command-line version of raspi-config, under Advanced Options->GL Drive.”
The post also explains how to install a couple of OpenGL-rendered games, like Neverball and Oolite, which barely load on the Pi 2 without the new OpenGL support. The team claims these run smoothly with the driver enabled.
As for other games, your mileage may vary. At least one user received the full version of Minecraft up and running, but it did eventually crash.
The Raspberry Pi 2 will never run the latest AAA releases at the highest settings — there’s only so much a $35 computer can do. But a working OpenGL driver with hardware acceleration will no doubt lead to some amusing ports of older 3D titles. It will also help developers design more elaborate interface elements, and process certain calculations that would’ve taken far too long before.
Aside from OpenGL support, the new Raspbian release offers several included programs, from Mathmatica to Sonic Pi. Libraries from Java to WiringPi are also up-to-date with this release. More USB audio devices will work, and it’s now easier to edit the main menu.