We are pleased to announce the Khronos VR Initiative has decided on the name of the upcoming open standard for virtual reality and augmented reality: OpenXR™! Comprised of a who’s-who of industry leaders, the OpenXR working group is creating an open and royalty-free standard for VR and AR applications and devices. OpenXR will encourage innovation while accelerating market growth and user adoption.
The Time for Standardization is Now!
VR and AR have experienced a boom of interest recently, and with that, a flood of hardware and software companies have begun spinning up efforts in the field. While variety is great, the growing number of devices, each with their own incompatible APIs is increasing fragmentation.
API fragmentation results in application developers having to spend significant time, money, and resources integrating with a variety of hardware. Even large teams are forced to choose which platforms and devices they support, and the problem is even worse for small teams.
On the hardware side, companies have to convince both application developers, as well as game engine providers, to support their new devices. This presents a ‘chicken and an egg’ problem: software developers are often reluctant to support hardware that does not have a large footprint in the market, while getting to this large footprint depends on getting quality content and developers tool that are compatible with this hardware.
Beyond developers, API fragmentation poses a problem for consumers who need to check if their favorite hardware is compatible with the applications they wish to use, and are unsure whether today’s software will be compatible with tomorrow’s hardware.
So, the landscape currently looks something like this, with application developers leveraging middleware, but still having to do significant work in order to bring their content to multiple platforms. In short, fragmentation slows the adoption of VR/AR devices, generates unnecessary work for developers and limits the ability of new and innovative devices to gain popularity.
How Does Standardization Help?
The OpenXR working group believes that we can help solve these problems through standardization. A standard will allow application developers to spend more time on creating amazing experiences and less time on getting the experiences to work on a myriad of hardware combinations. It will also enable device vendors to have more content available on their platforms and will future-proof their investments.
The OpenXR standard comes in two parts. First, the Application Interface, which application developers and middleware providers write to, and which serves to define and combine common, cross-platform functionality. This enables application developers to write code once that will run everywhere, to focus on innovating in their applications, and to not have to support multiple interfaces for a diversity of different devices.
Next, the Device Layer allows VR/AR runtimes to interface with various devices. If a hardware manufacturer wants to add support for a new device, they implement code that conforms to Device Layer specification, and their hardware will be immediately compatible with the applications written for the Application Layer. This is a powerful architecture that enables everyone to focus on what’s most important to them.
The OpenXR standard is being designed to enable a rich diversity of implementation differentiation between vendors. Runtimes from various vendors might differ in performance and capabilities, but having these runtime implementations support the same standard interfaces results in significantly more choice for end-users.
(note that the design of the OpenXR specification is in progress, and so while the above diagram represents the design goals of the group - final details may change)
In order for any standardization effort like OpenXR to be successful, it needs input from a wide variety of design perspectives from all sides of the problem space. The OpenXR working group has assembled a great group of leading companies in order to ensure that this standard will genuinely meet the needs of the industry.
Now is the time: Join us!
We’ve got a great group so far, but we’d love to have more participants to make sure that the standard is successful and widely-adopted and we are working bring OpenXR to a VR device near you by 2018. Any member of Khronos can participate in the OpenXR initiative, so check below for information on joining Khronos and help steer the VR/AR industry!
More information of OpenXR
The latest details on OpenXR can be found at www.khronos.org/openxr
Khronos members are enabled to contribute to the development of Khronos specifications, are empowered to vote at various stages before public deployment, and are able to accelerate the delivery of their cutting-edge accelerated platforms and applications through early access to specification drafts and conformance tests. Khronos membership starts at $3,500.