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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.

Kevin Carbotte is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews of graphics cards and virtual reality hardware.