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The “War of Words” Taking Place in XR Technology

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The title of this article uses the term “XR technology,” but, what is “XR”? Is the “X” like a variable that can stand for anything – “V” for “Virtual,” “A” for “Augmented,” “M” for “Mixed,” etc.? Or, is the “X” short for “eXtended”?

The difference may seem small, but “eXtended” has much larger connotations when read in view of spatial computing or distributed computing as we’re increasingly seeing in edge applications.

What about “Social XR”? Is that an XR experience that you can share on social media, like Instagram, Snapchat, or Facebook? Or is it an XR experience that you can experience with others in real-time, like Pokemon Go?

XR technology is exceedingly complicated. And, it’s even harder to talk about when we don’t all use the same terms in the same ways. This may have been a passive annoyance to you, but some communicators in the space see themselves as fighting a War of Words.

XR’s War of Words

The first time that I heard about XR’s War of Words was chatting with Alina Kadlubsky. In turn, Kadlubsky told me that she first heard the term was from XR Safety Initiative (XRSI) founder Kavya Pearlman. The two worked together with other contributors on what is likely the most complete XR technology taxonomy on the web.

Among other roles and titles, Kadlubsky is the Director of Communications for Open AR Cloud – an organization dedicated to “the development of open and interoperable spatial computing technology, data, and standards.”

The organization premiered at AWE last year during a panel including some barbed skepticism from Matt Miesnieks, then of 6D.ai before they were purchased by Niantic.

If you’ll forgive a long quote, Miesnieks summed it up thusly:

“If the mirror world gets built and the mirror world is that platform for all of these types of applications, the companies that won and lost in the mobile ecosystems and learned the value of having an app store and their own hardware and what that means, they see that the same stakes are at play for how the mirror world is going to shake out. So I don’t expect a bunch of plucky amateurs to luckily come together and build something that’s better than what these big investments are going to be driven by.”

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To be clear, he wasn’t talking specifically about lexicography, he was talking about XR technology and software. However, siloed development is siloed development. And, when Niantic purchased 6D.ai, it seemed that he was right: competition rather than cooperation would win out in XR.

The same thing started to play out on the XR technology terminology landscape. Different taxonomies arise and they aren’t always interoperable.

“Something So New, It Created a Category Unto Itself.”

The War of Words isn’t like an actual conflict in that not everyone is fighting each other. Some people are fighting for the rest of us.

XR technology evangelist Stephen Black is the author of Bubiko Foodtour’s Unusual Guide to Augmented Reality. The ebook is a compilation of definitions and lessons learned first-hand and illustrated through the creation of the titular Bubiko.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a number of seminars, and of course I go in there with a notebook. I’m writing everything down, sitting in the audience and networking with people,” Black told ARPost in an October 2019 interview. “In the course of that, I thought the best way to use it would be to alphabetize it and that’s how the book started.”

Black’s book is at once approachable and educational to the layman and includes suggested terminology for more advanced and less-discussed XR technology concepts and terms. It was also written before two other major compendiums of XR technology terminology came about. I reached out to Black again on the current state of XR lexicography.

“The explosive amount of creativity in spatial computing has, obviously, resulted in many new ideas, and human/tech interactive possibilities. The priority of those creators was, simply, just to get things to work,” Black said in a more recent statement, presenting a sentiment eerily similar to that of Miesnieks.

But, the connection didn’t end there.

“Pokemon Go, for example, was about the possibilities of combining mobile phones, social media, geopositioning, augmented reality, and the Pokemon brand. The result was something so new it created a category unto itself. This sort of hybridization, combined with faster chips and all kinds of new apps gave us acronyms like AR, MR, XR; as well as phrases like social AR,” said Black.

Filters, Lenses, and User Engagement in XR Technology

Social AR is one of the recurring issues talking about XR technology. Its meaning usually depends on the context.

However, it is a discussion that doesn’t usually take place on the user level but on the discourse and metadiscourse levels. While social media is how most people interact with XR technology most frequently, social media platforms don’t usually use the term “social AR.” Instead, they make up their own terms.

One issue is that the platforms that use augmented reality don’t call it that: ‘filters,’ ‘lenses,’ ‘visual search’ – everything but ‘augmented reality’,” ARzilla CEO and co-founder Elay Romanov wrote in a recent ARPost guest article. “However, users should be educated to call this technology by its proper name so that they can begin to recognize it when they see it.”

In some ways, different levels of audience are the reason that so many different guides to XR technology and terminology exist in the first place.

Black’s guide is for people just getting into the medium. Guides like that produced by the Open AR Cloud and XRSI, are for people already producing in XR.

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A guide produced by a looser organization in response to increased interest in XR collaboration during the coronavirus is intended for industry experts – just not experts in XR. That guide was not a dedicated taxonomy but did include a Glossary of XR terms.

The Glossary was one where we looked at the industry explanations to compile in a synchronous statement about each technology,” guide contributor Julie Smithson of MetaVRse said in an email. “We had several definitions of the glossary but it was about finding the right jargon that could be understood by anybody. We did consult other sources for the glossary but needed to curate our own to ensure we all agree on the definitions.”

Can Different People Use Different Words?

Being meant for different audiences means that these guides and taxonomies are not necessarily in direct competition. Further, the XR Collaboration resource guide and the taxonomy by XRSI et al. are both free. So, why might having multiple guides pose a problem at all?

It gets back to the sentiment expressed by Romanov. Journalist and XRSI’s Director of Communications Marco Magnano recently expressed similar views in a recent article. As an XRSI board member, Magnano was a contributor to the XRSI taxonomy.

Like Smithson, Magnano points out that interaction with the XR technology space by the general public has exploded as a result of transportation and collaboration issues brought on by COVID-19.

Giving the right name to things is the first step to understanding them. This is especially true when you enter a new world, a mirror world reserved for a few people before these days,” wrote Magnano. “Well, today this is no longer an exercise for specialists.”

To Magnano and others particularly within OARC and XRSI, this influx of new people to the XR technology conversations means a greater need and a greater opportunity to introduce a universal taxonomy.

The industry needs a collaborative approach and not a competitive one to solve this issue and subsequently bridge the gap of standards in XR,” Kadlubsky said in an email.

XRSI is listed with the American National Standards Institute, potentially giving them and their taxonomy more clout than other publications by less formal organizations. However, the internet might be more likely to side with search engine results and social media interaction than it is to side with organizational self-monitoring and cooperation.

It is now up to lexicographers, journalists, marketing people, and the next generation of educators to define category names and genres in spatial computing,” said Black.

Can the War Be Won?

Public opinion and corporate competition can have more sway than organizational standards in emerging technologies. However, while this article was being put together, social media giant and Oculus owner, Facebook, published a whitepaper titled “Communicating about Privacy: Towards People-Centered and Accountable Design.”

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The whitepaper includes language and citations from the taxonomy published by XRSI.

Maybe, coming up with a universal language for XR technology won’t be companies versus self-regulatory organizations. Instead, it will be self-regulatory organizations guiding companies – which is really the goal of groups like OARC and XRSI in the first place.

Source: https://arpost.co/2020/07/28/the-war-of-words-xr-technology/

AR/VR

The VR Job Hub: Dimension, Rec Room & FitXR

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Every weekend VRFocus gathers together vacancies from across the virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) industry, in locations around the globe to help make finding that ideal job easier. Below is a selection of roles that are currently accepting applications across a number of disciplines, all within departments and companies that focus on immersive entertainment.

Location Company Role Link
Remote Dimension Senior Real-Time Environment Artist Click Here to Apply
Newcastle, UK Dimension Studio Head (Newcastle) Click Here to Apply
Remote Job Dimension Senior Programmer (UE4) Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Data Analyst Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Game Designer, User Generated Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Principle Software Engineer, Games Server (Azure) Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Senior Graphics Engineer, Core Game Platform Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Senior Software Engineer, Games Server (Azure) Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Senior Software Engineer, Interactions and Gameplay Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Senior Software Engineer, Unity & Games Development Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Software Engineer, Trust & Safety Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Web Developer, Player Community Site Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room QA Tester Click Here to Apply
Seattle, WA Rec Room Product Manager, Growth Click Here to Apply
London, UK FitXR Content Creator – VR Community (Fitness and Music) Click Here to Apply
London, UK FitXR Lead Mobile Engineer Click Here to Apply
London, UK FitXR Senior Backend Engineer – Game Services Click Here to Apply
London, UK FitXR Senior Software Engineer (Unity3D Applications) Click Here to Apply
London, UK FitXR Senior UI Artist Click Here to Apply

Don’t forget, if there wasn’t anything that took your fancy this week there’s always last week’s listings on The VR Job Hub to check as well.

If you are an employer looking for someone to fill an immersive technology related role – regardless of the industry – don’t forget you can send us the lowdown on the position and we’ll be sure to feature it in that following week’s feature. Details should be sent to Peter Graham (pgraham@vrfocus.com).

We’ll see you next week on VRFocus at the usual time of 3PM (UK) for another selection of jobs from around the world.

Source: https://www.vrfocus.com/2020/10/the-vr-job-hub-dimension-rec-room-fitxr/

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Unity announces plans to release experimental version of Unity OpenXR early next year

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In Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality News

October 24, 2020 – Unity Technologies, a leading platform for creating and operating interactive, real-time 3D content, has recently announced that it plans to have early previews of its support of OpenXR on some platforms as early as the end of this year (Unity 2020 release cycle). The company noted that it has been closely monitoring the development of the OpenXR standard, and has accelerated its efforts to enable OpenXR in Unity.

OpenXR is an open standard created by the Khronos Group, aimed at simplifying augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) development by allowing developers to seamlessly target a wide range of AR/VR devices. Unity is a member of the Khronos Group and is an active contributor to the OpenXR standard.

In a blog post on the announcement, Matt Fuad, Sr. Technical Product Manager, AR/VR at Unity, commented: “We’re at an inflection point now, where OpenXR 1.0 has been ratified and OpenXR runtimes by various vendors are reaching maturity. This inflection point has accelerated our efforts to enable OpenXR in Unity. Though we’re still working through some details, we want to reiterate our commitment to OpenXR and are excited to share our latest plans.” 

As OpenXR becomes the primary backend for many platforms, Unity added that it is working with its partners to ensure full Unity support of their OpenXR runtimes, along with the necessary OpenXR extensions to ensure parity with existing features. The company stated that its development efforts and support will be focused on providing the best developer experience on Unity supported platforms.

Furthermore, by enabling OpenXR support on partner platforms, it affords Unity the ability to make support widely available for other OpenXR runtimes/devices. Early next year, the company plans to release an experimental version of Unity OpenXR that works with other conformant OpenXR runtimes based on the OpenXR 1.0 specification. Of course, the company clarified that given the unbounded combinations of possible hardware/software configurations, it will not be able to test or guarantee that all configurations will work optimally. However, as issues are discovered with runtimes, Unity stated that it will work to contribute conformance tests and specification changes back to the Khronos working group to help the community as a whole. Additionally, the company will also make sure that it is clear to developers which platforms have been fully tested and thus supported by Unity.

Fuad added: “Our mission is to make it as easy as possible for developers to take their content to the widest set of desired platforms. OpenXR is an important part of that story, and will be implemented as a part of our XR plug-in framework (XR SDK).”

This means developers will be able to continue using Unity’s suite of XR workflows and frameworks (AR Foundation, XR Interaction Toolkit, Unity MARS) for platforms that adopt OpenXR, as well as platforms that may choose not to adopt it.

Unity noted that it will be announcing more updates over the coming months. For more information on OpenXR, please visit the Khronos Group’s website.

Image credit: Unity Technologies / Khronos Group

About the author

Sam Sprigg

Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he covers news articles on both the AR and VR industries. He also has an interest in human augmentation technology as a whole, and does not just limit his learning specifically to the visual experience side of things.

Source: https://www.auganix.org/unity-announces-plans-to-release-experimental-version-of-unity-openxr-early-next-year/

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Unity ‘Accelerating efforts’ on OpenXR Support, Preview Expected by End of Year

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Unity has long been a public supporter of OpenXR—an industry standard designed to streamline VR development by making it easier for apps to support a wide range of headsets—but the company has yet to deploy support for the standard. As a key figure in OpenXR (owed to it being one of the leading VR game engines), it’s good news today to hear the company affirm its commitment to the standard and say that it’s accelerating work to bring OpenXR to Unity.

OpenXR is a royalty-free standard that aims to standardize the development of VR and AR applications, making for a more interoperable ecosystem. The standard has been in development since 2017 and is backed by virtually every major hardware, platform, and engine company in the VR industry, including key AR players. Earlier this year the standard took a huge step forward by announcing the start of certifications for compliant implementations.

Image courtesy Khronos Group

Facebook, Microsoft, Valve, Unreal Engine, and others have been making progress toward supporting OpenXR in their platforms and now Unity says it’s moving to do the same.

“We have been closely monitoring the development of the OpenXR standard. We’re at an inflection point now, where OpenXR 1.0 has been ratified and OpenXR runtimes by various vendors are reaching maturity. This inflection point has accelerated our efforts to enable OpenXR in Unity,” writes Matt Fuad, Sr. Technical Product Manager of AR/VR at Unity.

The company expects to have a preview version of OpenXR in Unity by the end of 2020 which will focus on platforms already supported by the engine (like Oculus, SteamVR, etc), and in early 2021 it plans to roll out experimental support for any conformant OpenXR runtime. Though Faud warns that wider support will take some time to be battle tested.

“Given the unbounded combinations of possible hardware/software configurations, we cannot test or guarantee that all configurations will work optimally. As issues are discovered with runtimes, we will work to contribute conformance tests and specification changes back to the Khronos working group to help the community as a whole. We will also make sure it’s clear to developers which platforms have been fully tested and thus supported by Unity.”

Faud says that Unity plans to implement OpenXR as part of its existing XR plug-in framework so that developers can continue to use many of the engine’s existing development workflows while still creating applications which are OpenXR compliant.

“We’re excited about the progress that has been made and believe this is a significant step towards supporting open standards,” he concludes.

Source: https://www.roadtovr.com/unity-openxr-support-preview-accelerating-efforts/

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