Kickstarter-Based Open-Source GPU Launches
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 9 October 2013 at 11:30 AM EDT. 27 Comments
As first reported yesterday on Phoronix, there's a new effort to raise one million dollars for a LGPLv3-licensed FPGA-based shader-supported graphics processor. Today the Kickstarter campaign kicked off with details in full on this new project.

The origins of this project come back to a Phoronix article in July when a company looking to wind down their business operations had asked me about the viability of open-sourcing their graphics core design and I opened the question to the Phoronix community. While there's been Project VGA and other open-source graphics cards have failed, Silicon Spectrum hopes to see success in their project.

For $200,000 USD, the company will open-source their complete Verilog implementation of a 2D graphics core that supports a PCI interface and CRT controller to drive one monitor. The 2D accelerator can support lines, solid fills, patterned fills, and bit BLTs.

At $400,000 USD the company will work on a FGPA GPU design that can handle 3D support with bilinear filtering, two-pass triliner, mip-mapping, specular lighting, gouraud shading, alpha blending, Z-buffering, color expansion, stipple mode, 3D color keying, backface culling, and triangle setup. With $600,000 USD in the bank, the developers would focus on not making the design PCI bus dependent but to work on AXI, Avalaon, and Wishbone FPA variants. They would also release project files for the Altera SoC and Xilinx ZYNQ.

At $800,000 USD would come performance improvements with features like texture compression, bump mapping, and faster performance. Finally, if they can crowd-fund one million dollars they would do a complete redesign to make a shader-based graphics processor. "This would allow us to create a complete open source implementation of a modern day graphics accelerator." They estimate this shader-based open-source 3D graphics accelerator would be done in 2015.

Contributors to this open-source GPU project don't get any hardware out of the deal but rather the full verilog testbenches, source code, and other data. Users are responsible for programming their own hardware.

The graphics processor that the company reportedly used their current design for was digital picture frames and avionics equipment. Drivers for any generated GPU designs would be started by the Kickstarter developers but largely left up to the community.

This is a neat project for hardware hobbyists should it come to fruition, but for open-source desktop users and Linux enthusiasts wanting real-world graphics capabilities for their desktop, you're better off with the open-source drivers on AMD Radeon or Intel graphics processors. Even Nouveau with its current re-clocking issues and other shortcomings would perform a heck of a lot better and be much more capable than this open-source GPU project will ever be in terms of real-world usability.

Anyhow, those hobbyists wishing to learn more or to tinker with verilog for GPUs can visit the Kickstarter page and/or watch the promo video below.

About The Author
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via

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