GDC 2017: Vive ‘Working’ to Join Oculus on a Committee for Open VR Standards

by Joe Durbin • February 27th, 2017

Earlier this morning the Khronos Group announced a name and details for its open virtual and augmented reality standard committee. Christened now as the Open XR Working Group, the organization will be comprised of representatives from the worlds leading AR/VR companies. Today’s announcement indicated that most of the major VR imprints have been granted membership into the group including: Oculus, Valve, Unity, Epic, Samsung, and Google. One name, however was missing from that list.

HTC’s VR subsidiary, Vive, was not included as an included member of the Open XR Working Group. The Vive headset gets its content through Steam and its own Viveport distribution platforms. Vive has been considered a more open headset than its chief competitor, the Oculus Rift, due to the accessibility of those platforms and its willingness to make its in-house content compatible with the Rift.

Last week at DICE, Oculus VP of content Jason Rubin challenged this perceived openness indirectly during a panel interview where he stated that “a truly open platform can not come from just one company” and that the correct way to create standards in VR is as a multi-corporation consortium. Rubin and Oculus are putting their money where their mouth is by joining Open XR and it seems they will soon be joined by Vive as well.

According to an HTC spokesperson, Vive is actively working to join the working group as well:

“We share the same vision as Khronos with keeping VR an open platform, and are currently working with Khronos to formally join their initiative and membership.”

The goal of Open XR is to create “an open and royalty-free standard for VR and AR applications and devices” that makes it easier for the myriad of devices and content platforms available now to work together seamlessly. The question of openness has hovered around Vive and Oculus throughout the lead up to and past the launches of their respective headsets.

Now, thanks to this new working group the two will finally have the chance to work together to solve this problem once and for all pending Vive’s admission to the committee.

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  • JSM21

    Interesting how Oculus joined before Vive. “Rubin and Oculus are putting their money where their mouth is by joining Open XR and it seems they will soon be joined by Vive as well.” I would have thought Vive was already a member of the Open XR Working Group w/ how much ppl complain about Oculus not being as open as Vive w/ content, though it isn’t actually Vive that is open its Steam/Valve.
    Now if we can just get cross-platform gameplay for Xbox, PS4 and PC…. I so hate having a game on PC and not being able to play w/ someone on Xbox…

    • DrakeDoesn’tWrite

      No need to join a Open VR system when you are already open. That’s why there are more games being developed on Vive than PSVR and Oculus. That said, it looks like they have learned from the mistakes of 3D. Everybody was just being a Cowboy and it crushed 3D because of needing brand specific glasses and certain studios like Sony hoarding films. People think 3D died just because some people got headaches. The selfish nature of TV manufacturers helped just as much.

      • Bundy

        The word “open” gets thrown around a lot and I’m not sure if people realize what it means here. With OpenXR we’re going to have a common API that supports all the headsets that join the group, which should hopefully be all of them. Right now both SteamVR and Oculus have their own API’s. Both of which can be imported into Unity and Unreal or used freely with your own engine. Neither of them cost anything to develop for. I can slap together a quick demo in Unity and run it on my Oculus. I’d be able to do the same with the Vive, but I’d need to load it’s libraries as well, which is what OpenXR is looking to unify and will save developers tons of time and grief.

        The Oculus API is open enough that Valve can support it in SteamVR. The issue is that Oculus doesn’t support SteamVR within Oculus Home, nor sell any non-Oculus games in their store either. Their store is most definitely closed. But their API is just as open as Steam’s.

        • DrakeDoesn’tWrite

          I get what you are saying and what they mean. That’s why I threw the 3D part in.

          • Bundy

            Ahh, gotcha

        • omgsus

          >The Oculus API is open enough that Valve can support it in SteamVR.

          Not really though. theres many missing peices. the way steamvr has to connect to rift is as an unsupported app connection and many features are missing from this kind of connection. All it really does is let the app connect to the contexts but no ATW/ASW. Think about it. its not only that “The issue is that Oculus doesn’t support SteamVR within Oculus Home, nor sell any non-Oculus games in their store either. Their store is most definitely closed. But their API is just as open as Steam’s.” no… it’s also their hardware can only be accessed by their sdk, their sdk is the only thing that can access their hardware. you have to install their sdk to use the rift period. steamvr has linux support. but not rift because theres no (modern) oculus sdk for any non-windows platform yet. Heck you can pull apart openvr and connect from whatever and not even use steam (if your willing to code up a compositor and controller…) and work with any openvr supported headset. You cant do that with oculus sdk as it only works with rift and rift only works with it. so … no… their API is most certainly not any where near as open as steamvr/openvr; and those are not nearly as open as openXR. (see, i’m aware openvr/steamvr has its own “open”ness issues) I would say you are confusing support with open, but even the way steamvr has to access the oculus sdk as an unsupported “unknown source” so its not even technically supported.

          As for the article, valve was already on the board so vive needing to be there is … not entirely necesary, but hey, gotta call something out, right? As long as no one poisons the well here, or leverages in features for platform specific user bases as some have done in the past, *coughgooglemicrosfotwhatcough*, this will be all good.

      • AlvinC

        and no need for Vive to join since Valve is already there – so SteamVR is already represented!

        • Bundy

          Yeah, Valve is essentially the entire software side of the Vive, HTC’s presence isn’t essential.

      • Kalle

        Maybe you should read up on “Open”VR. It’s not really Open. Yes you are free to use it, but you can’t make your own low level of customization. Only Valve can do that.

        • omgsus

          Actually you can. The part about it not being open is, valve controls whats in the official API and doesn’t really take any input. which is still an issue… but just saying, you can do a lot with openvr as is (with considerable effort to be fair). … but it’s all moot anyway considering valve had “donated” the entire openVR api to khronos group back in December.

    • Nathanael Dale Ries

      It’s because Oculus had to do some damage control. The public perception is generally that Oculus is less open due to them making their content exclusive to the Oculus Rift.

      By joining an this particular group that HTC and Valve were not a member of yet first, Oculus is trying to change the public perception. I’m sure there are some Open committees Valve and HTC are already members of that Oculus could have joined, but that wouldn’t have helped Oculus’ PR message. It’s all politics and it stinks, but that’s life when people don’t pay attention.

  • jimrp

    Been on FB. It only post if im a snowflake. Have many picks. They are not universal. Mark has showed me where i should spend my money. So far. Not a zombie.

    • Bundy

      Dude, don’t post political views on FB. Nobody wants to read them.

  • Totally Magical Unicorn

    This is good. In these early stages of VR these companies need to collaborate as much as they can in order to bring our somewhat small community together.

  • Steve Biegun

    “Open standards” just seems like a really arbitrary concept. Could someone knowledgeable about the subject explain what exactly this means and what will change in practice for developers and content producers?

    • Bundy

      From the wiki: “‘Open Standards’ are standards made available to the general public and are developed (or approved) and maintained via a collaborative and consensus driven process.” Basically, everyone involved in the group maintains the standard and API’s.

      So Oculus, Steam, Khronos and all the other members of the group decide collectively what gets implemented into the API and how it all works. With a closed standard you tend to get an API that supports a single piece of hardware because the manufacturer of that hardware makes the API, and they want you to buy only their stuff. The developer would then get locked into only knowing how to develop for that company and that hardware. If they want to develop for other similar hardware they have to relearn all new stuff. It’s a lot of work.

      In the end this will encourage more development as coders don’t have to pick and choose which hardware they want to create for. And if they choose all hardware, it saves them a lot of programming time since they only need to write for a single API.

      Even now with Unity, which supports both Oculus and SteamVR. I still have to code for both headsets because each has their own libraries I need to import and differences in the controls, etc. Once this is fully released, I’ll only need to import OpenXR and let it handle the differences in the headsets.

      Make sense?

  • Full Name

    What I’d really like to see is the major companies standardizing on supporting two tracking solutions:
    1. Lighthouse for superior tracking when you have environments that can be set up properly for VR
    2. Agreement on an inside-out tracking solution (guessing Oculus working on this for their new fairly secret project).

    That way, the major companies in the future would support one technology from Oculus and one from Valve, and we would have flexibility and confidence that we don’t have to buy a whole eco-system every time we switch.

    • elev8d

      Inside out tracking methods have a long ways to go and many possible implementations, with Oculus, Google, and Microsoft’s all using different foundations. It’s yet to be determined which method will be superior.

      • Full Name

        Yes, what I am saying though is that it is pretty clear that Lighthouse is the best outside in tracking solution(yes, I know, the lasers are “dumb” so you can sort of look at it as inside out, but the point is that there is an external tracking element). If we also get a good inside out tracking (no external tracking element) whether it is standardizing on a solution from Google, Microsoft or Oculus, it would be great if the companies agreed on standardizing on one each, and even put both into a headset. How cool would it be if you get some simple tracking with your Vive II if you take it to a friend and don’t bring the lighthouses, then when you are home, you take full advantage of the tracking.

  • kritikl

    Where there is hinderence, “open” will pave the way as more developers get hands on. And this is proven. Next stop, 3D which has been stagnant and needs a push from “open.” Neither the active or the passive 3D technology is a success and I for one do not expect miracles to happen too soon.