With everybody and their brother seemingly working on their own mutually exclusive virtual reality platform these days, it would be nice if everybody could somehow agree on some standards that allow VR games, hardware, and accessories to be easily interoperable with each other. Facebook-owned Oculus has gained a reputation for defending its own platform in order to protect access to exclusive content. In a presentation at the DICE conference this week, though, Oculus Head of Content Jason Rubin pushed back on this reputation and highlighted the company's work on developing standards in the VR space.
"This is actually a place where we agree with the industry more than most people think," Rubin said. "We support an open standard... We want everybody in the PC business to join an open standard that's a platform where everybody gets to say what's important to them."
Here, Rubin is referencing Oculus' work with the Khronos group (of OpenGL fame) on developinga common set of industry-wide VR standards. Announced back in December, the effort aims to create a set of "APIs for tracking of headsets, controllers and other objects, and for easily integrating devices into a VR runtime. This will enable applications to be portable to any VR system that conforms to the Khronos standard, significantly enhancing the end-user experience, and driving more choice of content to spur further growth in the VR market."
Oculus has joined a range of companies including Valve, Nvidia, ARM, Epic, Unity, Google, Samsung, LG, Razer, and more in signing on to support Khronos' VR standards work. Rubin says it's this kind of multi-company collaboration that interests Oculus more than previous efforts to create "open" VR standards.
"An open platform is not created by one company and then thrown upon the industry," Rubin said. "It never has all the industry's leads [represented]. The right way to do this is for the open standard."
That jab at "one company" efforts is likely a reference to things like Valve's OpenVR and the Razer-backed OSVR. These standards development efforts predate Khronos' work in VR by over a year, but rather than "kludging in an open platform today," Rubin said Oculus has been focused on developing its own technology. Once Khronos' VR working group finishes its discussions and comes out with a full open platform standard, though, Rubin says Oculus is fully committed.
"We haven't spent a lot of resources right now to create and/or join a standard that is not a true open standard," Rubin said. "But we believe in the open standard, we want to get to the open standard, ultimately we will be part of that ecosystem, with all that implies."
In the meantime, Rubin seemed undisturbed by the existence of third-party efforts like ReVive, which let competing headsets run games that are "exclusive" to Oculus' software platform. Rubin noted that he played the Oculus-funded Dead and Buried against a number of players using a Vive just this week. The Oculus team is even hard at work fixing a microphone problem those Vive users are encountering with the game, Rubin said.
"It's not that we don't support openness, it's that right now is not the time to commit our resources," Rubin said. "We have a process now, that's the Khronos process. We support that, so when that standard exists, we're committed to join."
With Oculus and all the other major players in PC and mobile VR fully on board, it sounds like Khronos' VR standardization efforts have a good chance of helping to unify a crowded and confusing field of competing platforms (Sony's console VR efforts being a notable exception). Here's hoping their work comes together sooner rather than later.