Oculus Executive Calls For 3D Equivalent Of JPEG To Build The Metaverse

by Ian Hamilton • July 22nd, 2016

A new standard for 3D scenes is gaining momentum with support from graphics industry leaders, potentially laying the groundwork for science fiction’s “metaverse” to be realized.

The GL Transmission Format (glTF) from The Khronos Group, a computer graphics industry standards body, could also put magnitudes more 3D content on the Internet. The Khronos Group is responsible for a variety of technologies critical to how computers show visuals. Standards include Vulkan, OpenGL, WebGL and others. One of the latest is glTF, designed to streamline the way 3D content is transmitted and loaded across any device. JPEG helped lead to an explosion in the way people make and use images and glTF could do that for 3D scenes.

Valve and Oculus are members of the Khronos Group, among an extensive list that includes Microsoft, Adobe and Amazon. Experts at Microsoft, Adobe, Box and OTOY directly voiced support for the glTF standard in an announcement today, indicating some industry momentum for the format. A quote from Oculus Chief Technology Officer John Carmack was also included, describing the need for such a format.

“The world has long needed an efficient, usable standard for 3D scenes that sits at the level of common image, audio, video, and text formats,” Carmack is quoted as saying. “Not an authoring format, or necessarily a format you would use for a hyper optimized platform specific application, but something at home on the internet, capable of being directly created and consumed by many different applications.”

Being a member of the standards group and offering a quote are not the same as deeply integrating a technology, but Carmack’s comment and those from important figures at other companies involved in VR points to significant interest in the standard. I reached out to Carmack on Twitter and asked him directly what he thought glTF could do for VR, and he wrote back “I think most people hope that the metaverse won’t be built on proprietary media formats.”  In case you are unfamiliar, the “metaverse” is an idea that would essentially extend the Internet into 3D so countless spaces can be linked up and explored with mixed reality.

The royalty-free glTF specification is meant to minimize the size of 3D scenes and models while providing the tech industry with a “common publishing format for 3D content tools and services, analogous to the JPEG format for images,” according to the Khronos Group.

“Ultimately, the metaverse is going to be built on open standards,” said Tony Parisi, VP of web and open technologies at WEVR and co-editor of the specification. “glTF is the first of those standards, and it’s going to lead to a proliferation of 3D content.”

The announcement from the Khronos Group is part of a wave of information being released by researchers, companies and industry groups ahead of the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference next week in Anaheim, California. Upload will be at the conference and we’ll keep an eye out for more robust indications of glTF adoption, as well as what it could mean for the VR industry.

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