Valve to Fully Rely on OpenXR Standard For Future SteamVR Features
Valve is transitioning full steam ahead from its erstwhile OpenVR standard towards the open standard OpenXR API. The company announced yesterday that new features on SteamVR will be come “on the OpenXR side”.
This comes soon after the company recently announced an initial support for the OpenXR standard in a beta release. The switch to OpenXR means that new features will now appear in the industry standard.
Thanks to OpenXR, developers will now be able to build VR and AR apps for a single interface and will no longer face the cumbersome prospect of adapting their apps for different virtual reality headsets and platforms. For the developer ecosystem, this results in significant savings in time, cost and resources. It also ensures that once apps are developed, they will be widely available to audiences across multiple platforms. The benefits will also seep down to the platform operators as well as the end users.
Many of the leading industry players including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Valve and Sony are already in the OpenXR working group. The final OpenXR 1.0 specifications were published in the summer of 2019 and since then, the implementation has been ongoing in the background.
The Windows Mixed Reality platform already supports the OpenXR open standard while Oculus has been experimenting with the standard from spring.
Valve began the test phase of the standard for developers at the beginning of this month. That means developers can now make their VR apps OpenXR-compatible and test them with SteamVR. Valve’s test-phase will run until September 1, 2020. It is possible that Valve might entirely switch to OpenXR. For the time being, however, the OpenXR implementation is happening only on the developer side so nothing will be changing for the end users until such a time when Valve eventually decides to fully migrate to OpenXR.
Enabling a New Cross-Platform Ecosystem
The VR industry has long faced the challenge of developing titles that can target multiple virtual reality platforms. Doing so has always needed extra effort and resources due to the need to develop polished apps that can work flawlessly across SDKs. The OpenXR API enables platforms to usher in the next generation of cross-platform VR applications. The open standard is built to enable developers and engines to target one non-proprietary SDK which makes it a lot easier to build polished virtual reality experiences.
Why OpenXR is SteamVR’s Future
At the beginning of the test-phase of the open standard, Valve officially announced its transition to OpenXR. In its statement yesterday, Valve stated that it had worked with hardware vendors, game engine developers as well as the graphics hardware providers to build the new API which it believes “represents a big step forward” in transitioning towards cross-vendor application support.
Some 4,000 virtual reality VR apps that have appeared on SteamVR were developed based on Valve’s old OpenVR interface. Valve has assured that these apps will continue running with both the current and future virtual reality hardware even after the switch to OpenXR. This will happen without necessitating any changes on the part of the app developers. However, new SteamVR functions will now appear in the OpenXR standard and not on the now obsolete OpenVR interface.
Developers that wish to continue investing in virtual reality will have to switch to the OpenXR standard sooner or later. That transition for developers will initially require an additional effort but the investment in resources will pay off over the long haul. It is inevitable that the whole ecosystem will transition into OpenXR.