Khronos members issue OpenXR standard

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The Khronos Group consortium of hardware and software companies has released its unifying, royalty-free, open standard for high-performance access to augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) platforms and devices.

Known as the OpenXR 0.90 provisional specification and released during GDC 2019 in San Francisco, the standard specifies a cross-platform application programming interface (API) enabling extended reality (XR) hardware platform vendors to expose the functionality of their runtime systems.

The new specification can be found on the Khronos website and has been released in provisional form to enable developers and implementers to provide feedback at the OpenXR forum.

Members of Khronos hope that by accessing a common set of objects and functions corresponding to application lifecycle, rendering, tracking, frame timing and input, software developers can run their applications across multiple XR systems with minimal porting effort—significantly reducing industry fragmentation.

The Khronos OpenXR working group was formed in early 2017 with the support and participation of XR companies.

Throughout the development of the specification, multiple Khronos members have been developing independent implementations to ensure a robust and complete specification.

Many of these implementations are becoming available for developers to evaluate, including the Monado OpenXR open source implementation from Collabora and the OpenXR runtime for Windows Mixed Reality headsets from Microsoft. The Unreal Engine from Epic will also continue to support OpenXR.

“OpenXR seeks to simplify AR/VR software development, enabling applications to reach a wider array of hardware platforms without having to port or re-write their code and subsequently allowing platform vendors supporting OpenXR access to more applications,” explained Brent Insko, lead VR architect at Intel and OpenXR working group chair.

“The OpenXR provisional specification—together with the runtimes publicly available at launch and coming in the next few weeks—will enable hands-on, cross-platform testing by application and engine developers. The working group welcomes developer feedback to ensure an OpenXR 1.0 specification that truly meets the needs of the XR industry.”

Members of Khronos and supporters had this to say about the release of the new standard:

“It is significant when so many key players in the industry come together to create an open standard like OpenXR. We look forward to seeing adoption of the new standard, and believe that reducing barriers for cross-platform XR applications accelerates growth, innovation, and diversity in the VR and AR industry.”

Nandan Nayampally, vice president and general manager, client line of business, Arm

“Being dedicated to royalty-free open standards and open source technologies, Collabora is proud to be one of the major contributors of the OpenXR working group and its first release today. In addition to this milestone, Collabora is excited to announce Monado, an open source implementation of the newly released OpenXR spec. More than just a vendor software development kit, Monado is an open source project and codebase to harness and focus wider community effort around XR technologies. Collabora plans to provide the technical foundation and industry leadership to accelerate the development and deployment of XR technologies on Linux while providing XR device vendors the choice to use and contribute to a Linux-based platform for their XR products.”

Philippe Kalaf, chief executive officer, Collabora

“Epic believes that open standards like OpenXR are essential foundations for a vibrant, multi-platform VR and AR industry in the coming years. We’ve supported OpenXR since its inception, including powering the first public demo of OpenXR at SIGGRAPH last year, and hope to see the ecosystem continue to grow with the first public release of the spec at GDC. Epic plans to continue supporting OpenXR in Unreal Engine 4.”

Tim Sweeney, founder and chief executive officer, Epic Games

“Facebook and Oculus continue to believe in the value the OpenXR standard delivers to users and developers. We plan to provide runtime support for apps built on OpenXR 1.0 on the Rift and Quest platforms later this year.”

Nate Mitchell, Oculus co-founder and head of VR product, Facebook

“HTC Vive is committed to creating a viable ecosystem for the XR industry which is why we are proud to support OpenXR. Bringing the community together to help define standards and best practices, allows all of us to move forward, together.”

Vinay Narayan, vice president, Platform Strategy, HTC

“Microsoft believes that for mixed reality to thrive, it must be open for everyone: open stores, open browsers and open developer platforms. We were proud to demo our OpenXR runtime at SIGGRAPH last year, and we’re dedicated to supporting the launch of OpenXR this year on Windows Mixed Reality and HoloLens 2. To help developers provide feedback on the provisional OpenXR spec, we’re releasing today a developer preview of our OpenXR runtime with support for Windows Mixed Reality headsets.”

Alex Kipman, technical fellow, Microsoft

“The next key enabler to drive the XR ecosystem will be OpenXR: an open, broadly supported API standard for cross-device compatible applications. It will build on the impressive progress in the XR field over the last few years, including multiple great HMDs and powerful VR-specific GPU features.”

David Weinstein, director of VR, Nvidia

“Tobii has been part of the OpenXR initiative for years and is committed to this effort. We believe that an open standard, multi-platform API holds great promise to enable developers to introduce eye tracking in a uniform and predictable way for XR applications. OpenXR will reduce the complexity of supporting multiple platforms and devices, and let developers spend more time creating amazing content.”

Henrik Eskilsson, chief executive officer, Tobii

“Unity is committed to being an open and accessible platform and we remain supportive of open standards for XR applications and devices. To that end, we’re excited about OpenXR and believe this is a significant step towards a more open ecosystem.”

Ralph Hauwert, vice president of platforms, Unity Technologies

“At Varjo we’re pushing professional virtual reality to a level that is truly useful for enterprises with the highest possible visual fidelity. For that we need standards that make it easier for companies to interoperate with the best technologies. Varjo is committed to support OpenXR.”

Rémi Arnaud, principal architect, Varjo