This is a very broad definition that includes products such as 3D displays, virtual reality HMDs, audio, gesture controls, and anything else that might add an increased feeling of presence to digital media.
Today the group's press release spells out its intent to tackle the lack of standards on the VR front: "The (ITA) is currently forming working groups to make effective quality assurance and software compatibility standards for virtual reality (VR) devices."
There's obviously a lot of potential benefit for standards in this quickly emerging industry. Alan Price, the president of the ITA, said it well: "Less time content makers spend on reinventing the wheel and more time spent on valuable differentiation of their products will accelerate the industry. The more informed debate and varied discussion we can have in the creation of standards the better." In principle, we're inclined to agree. It's hard to imagine someone making a compelling case to the contrary.
Where this could become complicated, though, is when you consider how the biggest players might respond. Until now, Oculus (the maker of the Rift) has been the de facto standard-setting organization for all things VR. It has a lot of clout, and we're not sure it's going to be interested in giving up virtual control of the industry by acknowledging an external standard. Sony is another potential force in VR, but it's less of a factor considering Project Morpheus is a closed platform for the PlayStation console.
Of course, Oculus has yet to release a commercial product regardless of how much mind share it currently owns, and potential competitors are on its heels. Perhaps it's much too early to worry about standardization conflicts in an industry that hasn't even really made it to market yet. No matter how the chips fall, though, it's good to know that the ITA is working toward a non-partisan option. Anything that can potentially help the virtual reality industry make headroom with hardware and software developers is a positive development.
[ADDENDUM January 5th, 2015:]
Neil Schneider, Executive Director of the Immersive Technology Alliance, submitted the following comment regarding our analysis of the potential conflicts that surround an open VR standard: