OpenXR, a widely supported initiative which aims to streamline AR/VR development across headsets and platforms, has reached its 1.0 release today. It’s a major milestone, according to Khronos Group which has overseen development of the standard by a consortium of many of the biggest names in the AR/VR sector.

OpenXR is a royalty-free standard that aims to unify the underlying connections between VR and AR hardware, game engines, and content, making for a more interoperable ecosystem. The standard has been in development since April 2017 and is presently supported by virtually every major hardware, platform, and engine company in the VR industry, including key AR players like Magic Leap. OpenXR’s ‘working group’, under which representatives from member companies have been actively developing the standard, is facilitated by Khronos Group.

Today the group announced the release of OpenXR 1.0, representing the first production-ready version of the standard. Khronos Group says that from 1.0 forward, OpenXR will retain “full backwards compatibility […], giving software developers and hardware vendors a solid foundation upon which to deliver incredible, portable, user experiences.”

OpenXR has both an application interface (which sits between an XR app and platform), and a device interface (which sits between the platform and the headset). Building apps, platforms, and headsets which singularly target the OpenXR standard (instead of a myriad of proprietary interfaces) makes for a significantly more interoperable ecosystem.

Image courtesy Khronos Group

For instance, it means that an app built for one OpenXR headset should run on an entirely different OpenXR headset with zero changes to the underlying code. Additionally, it means that a new entrant to the game engine market could swiftly add support for all compatible headsets by implementing support for OpenXR, instead of dozens of individual headset runtimes.

Granted, OpenXR does not necessarily mean that apps and content from one platform will work with a headset from another. Each company, even if a supporter of OpenXR, still has control over where their content is made available and which platforms support which headsets. Simply put, OpenXR is a technical foundation for interoperability, but business decisions still dictate content, device, and platform strategy.

OpenXR 1.0 is now available on GitHub. A reference guide published by Khronos Group gives a high-level technical overview of the API’s structure.

Moving forward, the next step is for engine, headset, and content makers to release implementations which support OpenXR.

Microsoft has released initial support for OpenXR on both HoloLens 2 and Windows VR headsets, and Collabora has released its Monado open-source Linux OpenXR runtime. Epic says that it has previously implemented OpenXR 0.9 support in Unreal Engine and plans to update the engine for the 1.0 release. Oculus has committed to bringing OpenXR runtime support to both Rift and Quest later this year.

Other companies who are officially part of the group responsible for developing OpenXR—like AMD, ARM, NVIDIA, HTC, Valve, Unity, and others—voiced support for the 1.0 release of OpenXR but haven’t yet announced a timeline for their own implementations.

Update (July 30th, 2019): A previous version of this article mentioned that OpenXR 1.0 featured new support for HoloLens, while in reality it is HoloLens 2. We’ve corrected this both in the headline and body of the article.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • oompah

    Wow thumbs up
    Beginning of new era finally.
    I urge everyone to implement it.
    I have MSVR, I erringly bought an vive compatible game,
    could not play it.
    Now things should get clear.
    One should be able to play game on any device.
    Great thumbs up

  • Miqa

    Very exciting news!
    This should accelerate VR development, while at the same time reducing the cost. Hopefully will lead to more content.

    There should also be a remote possibility that Oculus opens their platform to other headsets, now that they don’t have to pay for development of their support.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Explain why this would accelerate VR development? Most developers are already using an off the shelve game-engine like UnrealEngine or Unity, which already supports most VR headsets. OpenXR won’t change anything about your development time supporting different controllers, valve knuckles are different from Vive controllers or the Oculus Touch controllers. THAT’s where most of the work will be, and as I said OpenXR won’t make that easier. It’s propably easier for the engine creators, they can choose not to support a thirdparty SDK anymore and only OpenXR, which the thirdparty has to create their own drivers for which use their SDK’s, exactly how it is with OpenGL and DirectX…

      • oompah

        I believe they will provide a way to map controller buttons in different devices. Or design new set of controllers which could be compatible to each. Or why not design common controllers. But who will convince all these gaming cos.
        And why not simply provide access to keyboard, mouse & xbox game controller on all platforms.
        Mabee OpenXR needs to define a common controllers design as well with a minimum set of buttons for all similar to Microsoft did to MSVR implementation.
        I really thank Microsoft for the common design definition for MSVR. Thats the spirit.

  • Too bad the XBox brand doesn’t care about VR.

  • Amazing news! I hope this will take us to a more open ecosystem