A couple of months ago I took a VR Development course in which I got my first glimpse of OpenXR.
What is OpenXR?
Khronos Group launched OpenXR 1.0 last July 2019. OpenXR is an API (Application Programming Interface) that provides high-performance access to XR platforms and devices. Is the interface between an application and an in-process or out-of-process “XR runtime system”.It enables applications and engines, including WebXR, to run on any system that exposes the OpenXR APIs. With this, developers can focus on one build of their VR title and it will ‘just work’ across the entire PC VR ecosystem.
What is Khronos group?
Khronos® Group, is an open consortium of industry-leading companies creating graphics and compute interoperability standards.
Industry Support for OpenXR
The standard is seeing broad support by a wide selection of industry companies and devices including Microsoft’s Mixed Reality headsets, HoloLens 2, Rift, SteamVR, and Quest, as well as Qualcomm, Google, Epic Games, Arm, Tobii, Ultraleap, and Varjo. In addition, Blender integrated OpenXR, and Google’s Chromium uses it to support WebXR, allowing Chrome and Edge browsers to interface with compatible headsets.
Microsoft has openly embraced and encouraged open-source APIs like OpenXR, they have released its OpenXR Samples for Mixed Reality Developers as open-source, demonstrating how to use OpenXR to access the full capabilities of HoloLens 2.
Facebook has released their OpenXR Mobile SDK which includes the resources necessary to use the OpenXR API for native development of VR apps for Oculus Quest and Oculus Quest 2.
Google released Chromium 81 with OpenXR as its default backend for WebXR, enabling Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge browsers to use any OpenXR-compatible hardware.
Ultraleap has released a developer preview OpenXR integration for its hand-tracking technology for Ultraleap tracking devices.
Valve has released a developer preview implementation of OpenXR 1.0 with new features on SteamVR expected to now appear through OpenXR.
Varjo’s developer preview implementation of OpenXR enables the use of OpenXR applications with Varjo headsets.
The free and open-source 3D creation suite, Blender 2.83, has integrated OpenXR to deliver native VR scene inspection capabilities.
Open XR 1.0 is compatible with Unity Editor version 2020.2+. The plug-in is in Preview and works with any device that supports conformant PC-based OpenXR runtimes. Unity’s mission is to make it as easy as possible for developers to take their content to the platforms they want. With Unity’s OpenXR plug-in, developers can target any conformant OpenXR device/runtime. As more vendors adopt OpenXR, developers will be able to reach a wider range of devices.
Extended reality (XR), is an emerging technology from all immersive technologies, including augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, and others. Companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Magic Leap, and others, have XR headsets, and they have platforms that are relatively mature at this point. And OpenXR enables XR games and applications to target the widest range of hardware with maximum performance.
But still, most of these companies do not have the security and cloud infrastructure to truly compete with what Microsoft has built with their Azure Mixed Reality cloud.
Amazon has the security and cloud experience to potentially offer something competitive, Amazon Sumerian does not yet have the kind of cohesion that Microsoft’s platform does. Furthermore, it operates more like a game engine than a platform, and Amazon doesn’t have any XR headsets in the market, yet.
Unity states that the only platforms that have already been fully tested and are the first officially supported are Windows Mixed Reality and HoloLens 2.
The future of Open XR is now and from my point of view, and not because I am a Microsoft MVP, is that Microsoft already has cloud services to support this emerging technology, so they have a path already conquered. It remains to be seen which is the path that Apple will take, I would like to read your point of view.