Valve just took a big step in prepping Steam game developers for the full arrival of OpenXR, the new industry-wide open standard for AR and VR headsets. Developers can now download a beta version that will let them start integrating OpenXR apps into SteamVR.

The company has released what it calls “initial support” for the 1.0.9 version of OpenXR. To the VR team at Valve ‘initial support’ means that SteamVR is currently passing “95% of conformance tests,” so the company concludes that it’s come time to “start testing things.”

Valve says in the official announcement that although OpenXR for Steam is not yet enabled for broad general use, interested devs can opt-in from now until September 1st.

OpenXR Coming to Quest & Rift Developers Soon in Prototype Release

OpenXR is all about reducing—if not entirely eliminating—fractures within the market by letting developers build AR/VR content for a much wider gamut of headsets. Because you don’t need to change underlying code to support any given headset, OpenXR is supposed to make it easier for developers to ply their wares on all platforms equally.

It’s no doubt been a massive undertaking creating a platform agnostic standard for VR and AR, as The Khronos Group consortium has included in its ranks the important hardware and software creators in the industry, including AMD, ARM, Epic Games, Facebook, Google, HTC, Microsoft, NVIDIA, Qualcomm, Unity, and Valve.

Additionally, Facebook said in March that it would also be releasing a prototype version of OpenXR for Quest and Rift developers. With today’s news we’re hoping Oculus Store game developers will be getting that prototype sooner rather than later.

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • mfx

    Very nice !

  • Ad

    Isn’t oculus’s participation in this parasitic because they force software on their platform to only work with their headsets?

    • Rosko

      I don’t think Oculus will use it for its own platform. I think it’s just Steam. I hope that performance will not reduce, it’s already poor on Steam. Maybe there will be improvements for the motion smoothing with this development.

      • MeowMix

        ??? The Oculus SDK already includes a beta version of the OpenXR API (not yet officially supported); I think it’s been available for 6 months.
        And Oculus pushed for the OpenXR initiative and its based on donated Oculus code.

        • Rosko

          I see well i guess I just don’t get it then. This is like a driver?

          • James Cobalt

            No. It’s an API standard that can make driver development easier.

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        Motion smoothing isn’t poor, it’s just not depth aware.

    • James Cobalt

      No. You might be misunderstanding the purpose of OpenXR. While there are trickle-down benefits for consumers, the real purpose is to make life easier for developers and hardware manufacturers. It’s about saving time and money. This is a completely different issue from DRM, hence why so many competitors signed on to Khronos Group.

      Oculus will continue using DRM to lock titles from their store to their own headsets, but by participating in OpenXR, developers who wish to sell on the Oculus store will no longer have to refactor all the player input code to get it working on other headsets via other digital stores.

      The time savings work in the other direction to; Oculus could see more titles as it’s easier to port to it. And even if everyone keeps their titles/devices confined to particular distributors, it still makes life easier for them as an API standard results in more consistent and efficient tooling from project to project.

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        Oculus doesn’t just have DRM, I’m not sure why you think that. Do you know what Revive does? And why all oculus store software regardless of its exclusivity doesn’t work on other headsets?

        • James Cobalt

          Are you referring to the composer? Yes, I use Revive all the time. However, if a game has support for SteamVR or other headsets, Oculus requires this compatibility be stripped out. In theory there’s no reason why you can’t simply have a single executable that launches with the appropriate composer. That will be even easier now with OpenXR.

          • Ad

            Okay, so you meant them not allowing that single executable? That won’t change though. So it’ll be easier for devs? Do you think oculus won’t discourage the use of OpenXR if it means content intended for their platform first will start flowing to other ones? Will OpenXR work with ASW and it’s need for depth information?

          • James Cobalt

            So the first and strongest element that prevents a developer from creating software that can run on any headset is their contractual relationship to that hardware. If they’re not permitted to release software for it, or they’ve signed an exclusivity deal for one platform in particular, they’re generally not going to risk legal recourse or getting on the bad side of the rights owner. But that’s a whole other topic.

            This API standard makes it easier to bring software to other platforms, but it’s just two connections in the very lengthy pipeline between the development toolkit and the actual HMD/controllers. It doesn’t replace any of the actual software in the pipeline. I’ll say it again for clarity – OpenXR is NOT software. It’s more like agreed-upon terminology. It doesn’t replace the DRM, the distribution platform, the hardware drivers, the compositer, et al. It simply details some agreed-upon words for talking to some of these things.

            For example, if you’re developing the Oculus runtime, you’re going to program a check to ensure the hardware that’s connected is authorized by Oculus. Likewise, you’ll develop a check on the game itself to make sure it’s been authorized. Both of these are outside the scope of OpenXR.

            Let’s say you’ve signed the developer agreement that permits you to create software for Oculus headsets. Under NDA, your Oculus rep told you they’re going to include eye tracking in the headset next year, and they want developers to start planning for it. You know if you do, your title will get some free publicity by Oculus when the hardware is ready. But the hardware isn’t ready! How do you even begin?

            Thankfully, OpenXR details how to ask if a headset supports eye tracking or not, and if it does, how to ask it to send you the gaze position. That means you can get started on it right now – you could theoretically even test it during development using another platform that has OpenXR support. And perhaps you’ve already worked on integrating eye tracking on another title for another platform that conforms to OpenXR, so you don’t have to relearn how to do it specifically for Oculus’. It’s all the same API calls! Yes, those calls are directed to different places (say, SteamVR vs Oculus runtimes) but the wording of those calls and the ingestion of their replies are the same.

            Whether those API calls get anywhere is up to Oculus, as their software is the gatekeeper you’re sending the commands through. And it doesn’t preclude Oculus from encouraging the continued use of their proprietary SDK either. But it’s ultimately in Oculus’ best interest to reduce the overhead on developers, as it means more 3rd party titles can be sold on their store, and even the costs associated with their internal teams could be reduced through efficiency.

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            “It doesn’t replace…. the hardware drivers, the compositer, et al.”

            Okay, this is what I thought it would do.

  • Valve, pleeeease get the Unity XR plugin working soon! It’s such an easy way to develop for everyone simultaneously, we need you guys too!

  • MeowMix

    Hopefully the reality of OpenXR is almost here; seems like it’s very close now.