SAN JOSE, Calif. — A dozen key stakeholders announced an effort to define cross-vendor, royalty-free, open application programming interfaces for virtual reality. It aims to reduce fragmentation and make it easier to write applications that run well across a growing range of VR products.
The Khronos Group announced a call for participation in the effort it will host to specify application- and driver-level APIs. The full scope of the effort has yet to be defined. However, the work is expected to include APIs for tracking headsets, controllers, and other objects, as well as rendering content on range of displays.
“As well as providing application portability, a goal of the standard is to enable new and innovative sensors and devices to implement up to a standard driver interface to be used easily by VR runtimes,” said Neil Trevett, president of Khronos, in an email exchange with EE Times.
So far, the group includes VR chip and system vendors such as AMD, ARM, Google, Intel, Nvidia, Oculus, and Valve. The group also includes the developers of the open-source VR products, software developer Epic Games, and eye-tracking specialist Tobii.
Major players not involved so far include Apple, Samsung, and Qualcomm. A Qualcomm representative said, "We are working with Khronos on this initiative."
“I wouldn’t read too much into individual company names not being there yet,” said Trevett. “The big news here is that we have this amount of consensus that cooperation over a standard is urgently needed, and discussions and designs are underway.”
Indeed, a host of VR leaders released statements of support for the new group.
“As virtual reality matures and the essential capabilities become clear in practice, a cooperatively developed open-standard API is a natural and important milestone, [and] Oculus is happy to contribute to this effort,” said John Carmack, CTO, Oculus VR.
“With VR on the verge of rapid growth across all of the major platform families, this new Khronos open-standards initiative is very timely,” said Tim Sweeney, founder & CEO, Epic Games. “We at Epic Games will wholeheartedly contribute to the effort, and we'll adopt and support the resulting API in Unreal Engine,” he said.
“Nvidia is excited to see the industry come together around an open standard for VR,” said Jason Paul, general manager for virtual reality at Nvidia.
“Foveated rendering and Gaze interaction is key for the VR experience, and Khronos efforts in standardizing APIs for developers focusing on VR will ensure proliferation of content and richness of the VR ecosystem,” said Johan Hellqvist, a vice president at Tobii.
— Rick Merritt, Silicon Valley Bureau Chief, EE Times