Today, big tech companies including Apple, Pixar, Adobe, Autodesk, and NVIDIA, announced the formation of the Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD), which is dedicated to promoting the standardization and development of a 3D file protocol that Apple says will “help accelerate the next generation of AR experiences.”
NVIDIA has been an early supporter of Pixar’s Universal Scene Description (USD), stating last year it thinks Pixar’s solution has the potential to become the “HTML of the metaverse.”
Much like HTML forms a sort of description of a webpage—being hostable anywhere on the Internet and retrievable/renderable locally by a web browser—USD can be used to describe complex virtual scenes, allowing it to be similarly retrieved and rendered on a local machine.
Here’s how the alliance describes their new OpenUSD inititive:
Created by Pixar Animation Studios, OpenUSD is a high-performance 3D scene description technology that offers robust interoperability across tools, data, and workflows. Already known for its ability to collaboratively capture artistic expression and streamline cinematic content production, OpenUSD’s power and flexibility make it an ideal content platform to embrace the needs of new industries and applications.
“Universal Scene Description was invented at Pixar and is the technological foundation of our state-of-the-art animation pipeline,” said Steve May, Chief Technology Officer at Pixar and Chairperson of AOUSD. “OpenUSD is based on years of research and application in Pixar filmmaking. We open-sourced the project in 2016, and the influence of OpenUSD now expands beyond film, visual effects, and animation and into other industries that increasingly rely on 3D data for media interchange. With the announcement of AOUSD, we signal the exciting next step: the continued evolution of OpenUSD as a technology and its position as an international standard.”
Housed by the Linux Foundation affiliate Joint Development Foundation (JDF), the alliance is hoping to attract a diverse range of companies and organizations to participate in shaping the future of OpenUSD actively. For now it counts Apple, Pixar, Adobe, Autodesk, and NVIDIA as foudning memebers, with general members including Epic Games, Unity, Foundry, Ikea, SideFX, and Cesium.
“OpenUSD will help accelerate the next generation of AR experiences, from artistic creation to content delivery, and produce an ever-widening array of spatial computing applications,” said Mike Rockwell, Apple’s VP of the Vision Products Group. “Apple has been an active contributor to the development of USD, and it is an essential technology for the groundbreaking visionOS platform, as well as the new Reality Composer Pro developer tool. We look forward to fostering its growth into a broadly adopted standard.”
Khronos Group, the consortium behind the OpenXR standard, launched a similar USD initiative in the past via its own Metaverse Standards Forum. It’s unclear how much overlap these initiatives will have, as that project was supported by AOUSD founders Adobe, Autodesk, and NVIDIA in addition to a wide swath of industry movers, such as Meta, Microsoft, Sony, Qualcomm, and AMD. Notably missing in the Metaverse Standards Forum was support from Apple and Pixar themselves.
We’re hoping to learn more at a long-form presentation of AOUSD during the Autodesk Vision Series on August 8th. There are a host of events leading up to SIGGRAPH 2023 though, which goes from August 6th – 10th, so we may learn more at any one of the companies’ own presentations on USD.