Minecraft VR Might Come to Quest Following Move to Implement OpenXR
Following a slew of OpenXR announcements this week, we might finally see Minecraft VR come to Oculus Quest, a move that could unveil a new era in cross-platform virtual reality development.
The OpenXR working group made some of its biggest moves this week since the launch of its 1.0 specifications last summer. For the past one year, the working group has been pivoting the OpenXR standard as the inevitable next wave that will usher in a new era in cross-platform and platform-agnostic VR development. It has been positioned as the inevitable way forward for developers looking to build apps and games that will reach much wider audiences across a variety of platforms.
One of the most interesting announcements among the raft of announcements issued this week was the likely incorporation of OpenXR support for Minecraft. Minecraft is powered by Microsoft’s RenderDragon Engine and this engine is now using the OpenXR for desktop VR support.
While the announcement does not explicitly state additional platform compatibility, the implications are quite clear and it is possible that Microsoft might tap into its new OpenXR capability to roll out Minecraft VR into additional headsets in the future, including Oculus Quest.
If Microsoft’s RenderDragon rendering engine now supports the industry-wide OpenXR specification, it means that while some of its graphical features like VR support will still have to be reimplemented through the standard in Minecraft, it is now possible to do it using a single code base. Microsoft is also working on is own desktop VR support using OpenXR. Microsoft hasn’t issued any announcements on the introduction of Minecraft to Quest at the moment but according to some (insider) source information provided to UploadVR awhile back, Quest (Oculus) support for OpenXR was required “for that conversation to move forward”. Now that support has materialized.
In a post to developers this week, Facebook announced that the Oculus PC and Mobile SDKs will have the necessary resources to use the Prototype OpenXR API for native C/C++ development of both Oculus Rift Platform apps as well as the Android apps for Quest. Facebook continued that OpenXR would offer developers an alternative development path which will enable them to build portable code which can be used in various devices from multiple hardware vendors.
While there are great differences between the Android-powered Oculus Quest Platform and the Windows-powered PCs, OpenXR will provide the ecosystem with a “royalty-free open standard” that will allow for seamless portability across platforms to enable the creation of high-performance virtual reality applications that could run on diverse platforms. The aim of the OpenXR open standard is to simplify virtual reality development by making it possible for developers to build for more platforms while reusing the same code.
The OpenXR standard is seeing industry-wide adoption by various companies as well as devices such as Oculus Quest, SteamVR, Oculus Rift, Microsoft HoloLens 2 and Microsoft’s Mixed Reality devices. It has also been adopted by Qualcomm, Epic Games, Ultraleap, Tobii, Epic Games, Google, Arm and Varjo. OpenXR has also been integrated by Blender and it is used by Google’s Chromium to support WebXR which enables Google’s Edge and Chrome browsers to interface with compatible VR headsets or XR devices.
OpenXR was built for VR content compatibility across a large selection of devices. It provides developers with the confidence to build for multiple devices/platforms, creating apps and games that will work across the whole PC VR ecosystem.
The slew of OpenXR announcements made this week have brought the industry several steps closer towards the realization of a unifying industry standard and represents a significant milestone for the future of XR. For developers and gamers, it will herald a massive change with the creation of device/platform agnostic VR content.
Apart from Minecraft’s support for the new standard, Oculus has also began accepting OpenXR-developed games this week to its Quest and Rift stores. For the industry, this is significant as developers no longer have to build an exclusively different version of Oculus titles which significantly cuts down on the development time and development costs. It also means that we could soon see a Minecraft VR for Oculus Quest in the not so distant future.
The rollout of OpenXR means developers will now more than likely have the ability to support additional virtual reality platforms without resorting to completely changing their code or extending the development cycle to support additional devices. With the big shots in the industry supporting this open standard, the industry as a whole is set to reap major dividends from OpenXR implementation.
Moving forward, Khronos Group, the group steering the OpenXR open standard, is certifying games and apps that have been developed via the standard in order to ensure cross-platform compatibility on all the supported platforms.
Eye tracking and hand tracking modules have also been added as part of the industry-wide OpenXR rollout which will make it easier for developers to integrate these key features in their games with immediate access on headsets that support these technologies. Hand tracking is still in in its early days and is only available on a handful of major VR headsets such as Quest and the HoloLens 2. Eye tracking, on the other hand, is restricted to only a few headsets but is crucial for major improvements in performance as well as for other types of UI interaction on the supported VR headsets.