Microsoft Delivers OpenXR Cross-Platform Runtime For Windows Mixed Reality

Windows Mixed Reality
Microsoft has been somewhat aggressive in pushing mixed reality experiences in Windows 10, and it's initiative is the reason why there is a spattering of relatively affordable headsets to choose from (Acer, Dell, Lenovo, and others have jumped on board). In its latest push, Microsoft is bringing the recently ratified OpenXR standard to its Windows Mixed Reality platform.

Developed by Khronos Group, OpenXR is an open source, royalty-free standard that offers developers native access to a wide range of mixed reality devices from various vendors. That includes Microsoft's own HoloLens headsets.

"With OpenXR, you can build applications that target both holographic devices (like HoloLens 2) that place digital content in the real world as if it were really there, as well as immersive devices (like Windows Mixed Reality headsets for desktop PCs) that hide the physical world and replace it with a digital experience. With OpenXR, you can write code once that is portable across a wide range of hardware platforms," Microsoft explains.

The OpenXR standard is currently in a provisional phase, with an initial OpenXR 0.90 spec having been released and ratified by Khronos Group. It is a standard that has been in development for nearly two years and is widely supported. What Microsoft has done is release an OpenXR runtime.

Click to Enlarge (Source: RoadtoVR via Khronos Group)

Ideally, OpenXR will enable more experiences across multiple devices and platforms. It is not going to eliminate the practice of release games and apps exclusively to certain devices, but should a developer ever want to port the experience, OpenXR could make it easier to do.

"OpenXR seeks to simplify AR/VR software development, enabling applications to reach a wider array of hardware platforms without having to port or re-write their code and subsequently allowing platform vendors supporting OpenXR access to more applications," said Brent Insko, lead VR architect at Intel and OpenXR working group chair. "The OpenXR provisional specification—together with the runtimes publicly available at launch and coming in the next few weeks—will enable hands-on, cross-platform testing by application and engine developers."

While OpenXR won't prevent companies from developing titles specific to one particular headset or platform, it does open the door to broader support, should a developer want to target multiple platforms. This can only help extend the reach of mixed reality experiences and potentially foster faster adoption.