Khronos Group Launches Open VR Standards Initiative

The Khronos Group, the technology industry consortium responsible for the OpenGL, WebGL, and most recently, Vulkan APIs, is setting its sights on the virtual reality industry for its next collaborative project.

The Khronos Group’s members recently completed a multi-year initiative to bring the Vulkan API to fruition, and now the consortium is steering its focus towards creating a “cross-vendor, royalty-free, open standard” to the VR development community.

The current state of affairs for virtual reality development is like the wild west out there. There are multiple engines to choose from, a handful of platforms to sell software through, and a few different hardware options--all of which are completely different platforms. And each platform comes with its own unique needs.

For a developer to support SteamVR (OpenVR), Oculus (OVR), and OSVR, it has a lot of work to do. Each platform interfaces with the game engine in a different way, and each hardware platform has a unique runtime system. Developers must account for the intricacies of each platform during the development process.

Khronos seeks to address that issue by creating a standard API that interfaces with all hardware APIs and takes the extra work out of the equation for developers. Khronos said that the new standard would include “APIs for tracking of headsets, controllers, and other objects, and for easily integrating devices into a VR runtime.”

With a VR standard in place, all software built to work with the Khronos VR standard would automatically work with all hardware APIs that comply with the standard, which would result in far less fragmentation of the VR market.

Khronos already has a variety of key players in the VR industry onboard with the initiative. The supporting members list reads like a who's who of virtual reality leaders. Almost all the big household names are working on VR products are already involved. Members include Oculus, Valve, Google, Razer, Sensics, AMD, Nvidia, ARM, Intel, Tobii, and more. We’d like to see HTC, Samsung, and other VR-ready smartphone makers join the ranks of the Khronos group and get behind this initiative, too.

“Khronos has been on the forefront of advanced graphics and system APIs for over 15 years, and in keeping with that tradition and obligation to the industry at large has embarked on a new, vitally needed set of APIs and standards for the emerging VR market,” said Jon Peddie, President of JPR. “We applaud the industry-leading companies that are coming together as Khronos members for this endeavor, and expect the whole industry will share our sentiment.”

Qualcomm is curiously absent from the list of supporting companies. Qualcomm designs many of the processors that are used in smartphones and similar devices, and the company recently made the move to build a processor specifically meant for standalone VR devices. If any company should be involved in a VR standard, it should be the company building processors for VR hardware.

Khronos isn’t known for pumping out standards in the blink of an eye. The group spent more than a year working out the finer details of the Vulkan API before finally releasing it to the wild earlier this year. There’s no telling how long it will take the Khronos Group to finalize the VR standard, but it’s not rushing just yet. The group is currently in the “initial exploratory phase” trying to “define the standard’s scope and key objectives.”

The Khronos Group encourages any company interested in contributing to the development of the VR standard to join the group and voice their opinion of what should and shouldn’t be included. For more information about Khronos’ VR standard or information about how to join the Khronos Group, visit www.khronos.org/vr.

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  • AndrewJacksonZA
    "Qualcomm is curiously absent from the list of supporting companies... Khronos isn’t known for pumping out standards in the blink of an eye." I think you just gave the reason why.

    One of the things that I've learnt over the years is the Khronos seems to have committees for committees that are about committees and that things have seemed to take forever with them.
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  • bit_user
    Seems like every name involving "Open" and "VR" is already in use. Perhaps they'll follow the path set by Vulkan, and pick a name that's just an unrelated or invented word.

    Quote:
    For a developer to support SteamVR (OpenVR), Oculus (OVR), and OSVR, it has a lot of work to do.
    You omitted Google's Daydream & Samsung's GearVR platforms - I'm sure the new standard will address mobile. Plus, I'm pretty sure MS has an API, since they're working with HW manufacturers to create their own VR platform.

    Quote:
    Qualcomm ... recently made the move to build a processor specifically meant for standalone VR devices.
    It's misleading to call it a processor. It's just a variation on their smartphone SoCs that's better-oriented towards VR. It's not on the level of what MS did in Hololens, where they basically created a custom engine for AR.

    Anyway, you'd expect them to be at the table, but I think the risk for them of not being involved at this stage is a lot lower than for the HMD and controller manufacturers.

    Quote:
    The group is currently in the “initial exploratory phase” trying to “define the standard’s scope and key objectives.”
    Right, and this is actually the big question. Will the new standard really allow a single app to be targeted at the full range of VR hardware, with the full range of tracking capabilities & controllers? That's potentially a far more ambitious goal than simply unifying differences between a few APIs.
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  • bit_user
    Anonymous said:
    One of the things that I've learnt over the years is the Khronos seems to have committees for committees that are about committees and that things have seemed to take forever with them.
    I can't speak to the first point, but standards aren't something that should be rushed. Furthermore, they will always lag what industry leaders are doing with proprietary APIs, but that's not to say they aren't important or worthwhile.

    I wouldn't even expect to see a provisional spec from them for at least a year. Furthermore, I think it's likely they'll decompose the problem into a family of related standards.

    BTW, as far as standards go, Khronos is actually pretty fast. Just compare them to W3C, ITU, or any number of other standards bodies. How long was HTML 5 in development? Or take Javascript 5, H.265, 802.11n, PCIe 4.0, DDR4, ... I could go on.
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