Valve Talks ‘OpenXR’, the Newly Revealed Branding for Khronos Group’s Industry-backed VR Standard

Voices of VR Podcast – Episode #509


Joe_LudwigValve’s Joe Ludwig talks about the latest updates on the Khronos Group’s VR standardization process that is now being called “OpenXR.” Ludwig says that OpenXR is still primarily creating an open and royalty-free open standard for virtual reality, but that they wanted to plan for the future and eventually accommodate augmented reality as well. In my Voices of VR interview with Ludwig, he talks about the OpenXR standardization process from Valve’s perspective and how they want to see VR become an open of a platform just as the PC has.


The OpenXR working group has just completed it’s exploratory process and there are still numerous open debates, and the Khronos Group is making this announcement of a name and logo at GDC in order to encourage more VR headset and peripheral companies to get involved in this standardization process. Ludwig can’t speak on behalf of any OpenXR decisions yet, but was able to provide more insight behind Valve’s motivations in the process, which is to develop a standard that will what they see as a minimal baseline for a quality VR experience as well as to make VR an open platform. OpenXR will also span the full spectrum from 3DoF mobile to 6Dof room-scale, and so there are many active discussions with the working group about what all will be included in the 1.0 specification.

VR is a new computing platform, and this OpenXR standard aims to help keep both VR and AR as open platforms. This Khronos Group OpenXR initiative aims to lower the barriers to innovation for virtual reality so that eventually a VR peripheral company just has to write a single driver to work with all of the various VR headsets. But in order to know what APIs should be available for developers, then this standardization process requires the participation from as many VR companies as possible. Part of the announcement at GDC is to say that the working group has finished their preliminary exploration, and that they’re ready for more companies to get involved.

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In my previous interview with Khronos Group President Neil Trevett, he said that this standardization process typically takes about 18 months or so. Given that it was first announced in December 2016, then I’d expect that we might be seeing a 1.0 specification for OpenXR sometime in the first half of 2018. It also depends upon how motivated all of the participants are, and there seems to be a critical mass of major players in the industry to help make this happen and so it could happen sooner.

As to whether or not this OpenXR will mean that any VR headset will work with any VR software, that’s one of the theoretical technical goals but there are many constraints to making this happen. Ludwig said that while technically this could be made possible with OpenXR, there will still be a layer of business decisions around platform exclusives. When talking to Nate Mitchell of Oculus, even if Oculus implements OpenXR then they still want to make sure that it would be a quality experience. Ludwig said that there will be other constraints of having the proper input controls, button configurations, and set of minimal hardware available for some experiences to work properly. It’s also still too early for what the final OpenXR spec will look like for companies to make any specific commitments about cross-compatibility, and I’ll have more details on Oculus’ perspective on OpenXR early next week with a Voices of VR interview with Nate Mitchell.

Overall, I think that this OpenXR is probably one of the most significant collaborations across the entire VR industry. The Khronos Group says that the OpenXR “cross-platform VR standard eliminates industry fragmentation by enabling applications to be written once to run on any VR system, and to access VR devices integrated into those VR systems to be used by applications.” If VR and AR want become the next computing platform, then OpenXR is a key technology to help make that happen.

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  • Bramagola

    Stop making new standards.

    • I think the problem currently is that there is no standard, we just have various companies own implementations. Sure OSVR and OpenVR are pretty… open, but to me they’re not a de facto standard that other companies comply to. That’s how I see it anyway :)

      • Adrian Meredith

        We’re currently at the 3dfx glide stage, open vr is the defacto standard but it’s only a stop gap, eventually a common standard like opengl will emerge


  • Are they making this even because they’re afraid of Microsoft imposing its Windows 10 toolkit standard on VR and AR?

    • 12Danny123

      It’s going to be very complex to compete against Microsoft AR, especially when MS has all the patents and distribution of hardware with themselves and OEMs.

      • Yes, but I was talking about Microsoft VR platform… their idea of Windows 10 that supports all headsets and you just use Microsoft SDK

  • Sam Illingworth

    I take it Oculus isn’t involved?

    • Justos

      You clearly didn’t read this article you’re commenting on.

      • Sam Illingworth

        Just read it again. Still seems to suggest they’re not involved, but the mentions of Oculus are very vague. What am I missing?

        • Justos

          The graphic for openXR shows oculus, if you do a bit more digging outside of this article (i apologize if you were just generally unaware) you will know that an Oculus employee is one of the original members of this organization.

          • Sam Illingworth

            Oh yeah, it is in the picture!

            I’m surprised, I thought Oculus were all about being closed and proprietary. Seems odd that they want to work on a standard that’ll make cross platform development easier when they’re also paying people to be exclusive.

  • Undead2k

    I find it funny how Sony are not listed.

  • OgreTactics

    I’m glad the whole industry is moving toward Khronos open standard, goes to show how terrible that DX12 debacle was, and even proprietary Nvidia technologies like Iray/Mentalray/MDL etc… seem to now be integrated with OpenGL in priority.