At the moment virtual reality (VR) is fragmented, companies across the globe have been competing against each other to bring the technology to the mainstream through their own ideas and innovations. But that’s set to change. This week, The Khronos Group, an open consortium of leading hardware and software companies, announced a call for participation in a new initiative to define a cross-vendor, royalty-free, open standard for access to modern VR devices. Companies like Razer, AMD, ARM, Epic Games, Oculus, Tobii and Valve have all now signed up.
The fragmentation has been, in part, due to the rapid growth of VR, and The Khronos Group is looking to standardise the industry to the benefit of developer and consumers alike. Developers are currently forced to port and customise VR applications to run on multiple VR runtimes, thus requiring GPUs and displays to support multiple driver interfaces. The fragmentation hinders the creation of VR experiences that can run across multiple platforms, creating added expense for developers wishing to support multiple VR devices. Current titles such as CCP Games’ EVE: Valkyrie and Ubisoft’s Werewolves Within, support cross-platform compatibility, but these studios have the finances and teams available to do so. Many VR developers are small indie teams that don’t always have the necessary resources to achieve this.
“With VR on the verge of rapid growth across all of the major platform families, this new Khronos open standards initiative is very timely. We at Epic Games will wholeheartedly contribute to the effort, and we’ll adopt and support the resulting API in Unreal Engine,” said Tim Sweeney, founder & CEO, Epic Games.
“Khronos’ open APIs have been immensely valuable to the industry, balancing the forces of differentiation and innovation against gratuitous vendor incompatibility,” said John Carmack, CTO, Oculus VR. “As virtual reality matures and the essential capabilities become clear in practice, a cooperatively developed open standard API is a natural and important milestone. Oculus is happy to contribute to this effort.”
Key components of the new standard will include APIs for tracking of headsets, controllers and other objects, and for rendering to a diverse set of display hardware. This standard will enable applications to be portable to any VR system that conforms to the Khronos standard, significantly enhancing the end-user experience, and driving widespread availability of content to spur further growth in the VR market.
“The number of VR systems on the market is growing rapidly. Most of these require separate API support from the developer, which is causing huge fragmentation for consumers,” said Gabe Newell of Valve. “Khronos’ work on a standard API to enable applications to target a wide variety of VR devices is an important step to counter that trend.”
VRFocus will continue its coverage of The Khronos Group, reporting back with any further announcements.