The Khronos Group has long been at the forefront of standardizing development across virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) technologies, having initially announced its standard, OpenXR back in 2016. At SIGGRAPH 2018 this week, the group will be holding the first public demonstrations of OpenXR, whilst providing a sneak peek into the technical details.
The issue at the moment is fragmentation. As you can see from the image above, when developers create apps and videogames they have to deal with different API’s to make their content compatible. Whilst this may be fine for big studios with decent budgets, a lot of VR and AR studios tend to be smaller independent outfits, or even solo developers. When this is the case they’ll generally focus on one platform and if possible support others in the future.
This can be further complicated in the VR world by the various tracking devices and controllers that each system uses, further exacerbating unwelcome costs, confusion and uncertainty in the market. This not only affects developers but also extends to consumers who might not want to purchase a system that’s only partially supported.
The OpenXR format aims to eliminate that fragmentation by creating a common application-facing API that all XR runtimes can utilise, whilst an optional device plugin extension will allow compliant devices to operate seamlessly within the OpenXR ecosystem.
As The Khronos Group explains in a blog posting about the benefits: “applications can reach a larger market of more XR systems without have to port or re-write their code; XR devices can self-integrate and be used by any runtime that exposes the OpenXR device integration layer; and finally, XR runtime vendors get access to more applications and devices on their systems.”
To make this work The Khronos Group can’t work alone, teaming up with some of the biggest companies in the industry, including: AMD, Epic Games, HTC, Nokia, Oculus, Microsoft, Samsung, Unity, Qualcomm and many more.
The first public demonstrations of OpenXR at SIGGRAPH 2018 will use two prototypes including Epic Games’ Showdown VR Demo, running across StarVR HMDs and Microsoft Windows Mixed Reality headsets using the OpenXR APIs via an Unreal Engine 4 plugin. As further details on the OpenXR standard are released VRFocus will keep you updated.