The Khronos Group announced a new standard, OpenXR, that’s meant to help VR and AR game developers support more hardware platforms with less hassle. The consortium also revealed updates to Vulkan, WebGL, and glTF as well as new working groups devoted to developing these standards. With support from Intel, Oculus, and many other companies, the announcements promise to shake up XR game development as we know it.
OpenXR is the official name for the open standard that was originally announced as the Khronos VR Initiative in December 2016. It’s supported by a working group consisting of many companies, ranging from Oculus and Nvidia to Google and Intel, and its goal is to make cross-platform VR development easier. Here’s what supporting multiple VR platforms looks like now, according to Khronos:
That requires support from many companies–which is exactly what this OpenXR working group has. In addition to the members announced in December, the group is now supported by Qualcomm, Sony, and other companies involved in various aspects of XR development. Chip makers, game engine creators, and the companies behind the consumer VR platforms that took the world by storm in 2016 are all part of this growing consortium.
Still, there’s no word on when the OpenXR standard will debut. Khronos is known for taking its time with new standards or APIs; the Vulkan API released in early 2016, for example, was in development for a year before it was made available to the public. Given the complexity involved with OpenXR’s mission and the need to coordinate between many different companies, VR and AR game development will probably remain complicated for a while.
Updates – Vulkan, WebGL, glTF
Khronos announced that the Vulkan API has been updated with new features “for cross-platform access to Virtual Reality and multi-GPU functionality.” The group also said that a dozen Vulkan-compatible titles, such as Doom, The Talos Principle, and Dota 2, are now available, and that “major GPU manufacturers” are shipping Vulkan drivers for both desktop and mobile systems.
Khronos also finalized the WebGL 2.0 standard so devs can “create the next wave of 3D web applications and engines.” It’s working on the next generation of WebGL and seeking feedback on the glTF 2.0 specification, with hopes of finalizing the update in “the next few weeks.” The first version of glTF was devoted to “enable 3D assets to be shipped to, and efficiently loaded by, WebGL 1.0 applications.” The second iteration has a broader goal:
But glTF 2.0 is much more than a streamlining of glTF 1.0. The major functionality requests arriving from the developer community using glTF 1.0 were to: a) upgrade the quality of materials; while b) removing any dependency on the underlying rendering API. In glTF 1.0, a material is defined with a GLSL shader – which causes an issue when wanting to import a glTF model into a Direct3D, Vulkan or Metal application. Fortunately, there is a technology that can solve both these problems in one stroke – Physically Based Rendering (PBR). A PBR material is defined by simply sending parameters into a well-defined rendering model.