Facebook will deprecate its proprietary Oculus APIs in favor of industry standard OpenXR.
Facebook says new features “will be delivered via OpenXR extensions” starting with v31, echoing language release by Valve last year regarding new features on SteamVR being connected to OpenXR as well.
According to Facebook, in August of 2022 the existing Oculus Native Mobile and PC APIs will become “unsupported”, meaning that “existing applications will continue to function on Oculus devices” but new applications will be required “to use OpenXR, unless a waiver is provided.” In the interim, Facebook will “help developers build new applications with OpenXR via our Developer Site” and “perform QA testing of OpenXR to ensure features are working.”
Facebook “will be unable to provide access to Oculus Native Mobile and PC APIs but will allow existing applications to continue to use them” and “can provide recommendations for migration of existing applications to OpenXR via guides but are unable to assist with creation of new applications with Oculus Native and PC APIs.”
Broad industry support for OpenXR from Facebook and other major VR players like Valve, Microsoft and HTC — as well as game engines from companies like Unity and Epic Games — should make it easier for developers to make VR apps that run on a wide range of hardware. Microsoft’s Flight Simulator VR is one of the first OpenXR-compatible titles. At the end of 2020 Facebook started recommending game engines use OpenXR.
VR Industry Ramifications
“This is the right move at the right time,” wrote original Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey in a direct message. “One standard to rule them all didn’t make sense in the earlier days of VR given the fundamentally different approaches of different companies on the hardware and software side, to say nothing of the business component – there was a time when SteamVR/OpenVR (which was not actually open) had huge issues and many companies were philosophically opposed to things like reprojection, the pain developers went through supporting various APIs was critical in building industry consensus on what works best and why. HTC is probably going to benefit the most from widespread OpenXR adoption on the corporate side in the near future, but there are some upcoming entrants who also stand to gain a lot. Industry-wide standardizing to the lowest common denominator still has some downsides, but they are almost certainly outweighed by the benefits to developers and gamers.”
While the move should make it easier for developers of new apps to build for multiple hardware platforms, those building with earlier APIs or older versions of game engines may face some pressure to update to ensure their software and their players are supported should bugs arise, or to gain access to new features like the new Passthrough API.
“I will eventually switch to OpenXR but it will take months of work as Virtual Desktop was developed against Oculus’ VrApi over the last 4 years,” Virtual Desktop developer Guy Godin wrote in a tweet and direct message. “Still have months of work to port Virtual Desktop from VrApi to OpenXR. A passthrough environment will not be possible until then.”
“I’ll no longer be able to expect that — if a critical issue arises caused by Facebook’s new software — that it will be fixed. Which will affect every PCVR game built before 2020 in Unity, ie. most of them,” wrote H3VR developer Anton Hand in a direct message.
You can read more about the OpenXR transition over on the Oculus developer blog.