Valve Has Released Developer Preview for OpenXR Support in SteamVR
Last week, Valve released a developer preview for OpenXR support in SteamVR. OpenXR is an open standard for virtual reality and augmented reality that is widely supported in the XR industry. The standard has been designed to prevent the fragmentation of the Virtual Reality market.
The week saw Valve ushering in the first OpenXR test phase for SteamVR. Valve’s release of the OpenXR developer preview is a huge step towards the industry-wide implementation of the standard in VR and AR. Valve’s OpenXR test phase for SteamVR is expected to run until September 1, 2020. OpenXR has now been integrated into the beta version of SteamVR and will support the latest OpenXR version 1.0.9.
Valve isn’t the first platform provider to provide OpenXR support. Facebook’s standalone Oculus Quest platform already has a “prototype” OpenXR support. Oculus Rift is also expected to feature support for the application programming interface (API). Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality (WMR) platform also supports OpenXR.
While there are massive differences between the PC-based and the Android-based Virtual Reality systems, the OpenXR standard is expected to make it generally easier for developers to build for multiple platforms using a single API.
The OpenXR working group includes some of the leading players in the tech scene including Facebook, Valve, HTC, Sony, Unity, Nvidia, AMD, Epic, Intel and Sony. Last year, giant industry players agreed on the final specifications of OpenXR 1.0. Ever since, platform providers have been implementing the standard in their products and services.
For now, only developers will benefit from the implementation of the open standard. If you are a developer, you can now begin integrating OpenXR-compatible versions of your Virtual Reality apps into SteamVR. According to Valve, its SteamVR platform is currently 95% compatible with the OpenXR standard. For the foreseeable future, nothing is going to change yet for virtual reality users because the open standard is yet to be activated on the consumer side.
The deployment of OpenXR standard represents an important development in the virtual reality industry. In the future, the open standard will enable developers to program their virtual reality apps for single XR interface, a step that will ensure compatibility with all the major software and hardware platforms. So far, developers have had to adapt their virtual reality apps for the various devices and cumbersome which drives up software development costs and lengthens the time it takes to release new apps and experiences into the market.
OpenXR offers numerous advantages for end users and platform operators as it allows for a universal XR interface that enables more content to be available on more platforms. This opens up an even bigger market to VR content developers. OpenXR has enabled VR to have a consolidated API that allows XR content developers to bring universal Virtual Reality support to the apps they are developing.
It is still unclear whether OpenXR may eventually lead to the opening up of some virtual reality ecosystems. While SteamVR supports all the major VR hardware platforms, the Oculus ecosystem is still closed off and limited only to Oculus hardware.
Could OpenXR break down these restrictions? It remains to be seen.
A universal interface enabled by OpenXR may lead to the integration of non-Oculus VR hardware which will mean less effort and resources for developers than was previously possible. This would be a logical step and may inevitably lead to the opening up of platforms such as Oculus. However, for the foreseeable future, Facebook still has a good incentive for keeping its ecosystem closed.