Official Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD) logo. (Source – OpenUSD)

Tech giants assemble for open standards in the era of 3D technology

  • Tech giants form Alliance for OpenUSD to standardize 3D industries.
  • Alliance for OpenUSD advances 3D tech across AI, metaverse, and mixed reality.

The realm of 3D content is expanding at an extraordinary pace, revolutionizing industries from entertainment to engineering and beyond. A vital aspect of this revolution is the development and implementation of open standards for 3D content aimed at fostering interoperability and efficiency, and boosting creativity across various tools, platforms, and applications.

Tech giants Pixar, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, and NVIDIA, in conjunction with the Joint Development Foundation (JDF), a subsidiary of the Linux Foundation, recently launched the Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD). This alliance champions Pixar’s Universal Scene Description technology’s standardization, development, progression, and expansion.

This alliance aims to standardize the 3D environment by augmenting the capabilities of the Open Universal Scene Description (OpenUSD). By promoting enhanced interoperability of 3D tools and data, the alliance empowers developers and content creators to design, structure, and simulate large-scale 3D projects. This facilitates the creation of an ever-expanding array of 3D-enabled products and services.

Standardizing 3D environments: An insight into OpenUSD

Originated by Pixar Animation Studios, OpenUSD is a top-notch 3D scene description technology known for its formidable interoperability across tools, data, and workflows. It has already gained a reputation for its collaborative artistic capture and streamlined content production capabilities. The strength and versatility of OpenUSD make it the ideal platform to cater to the needs of emerging industries and applications.

The alliance aims to outline OpenUSD’s features through comprehensive written specifications. This is expected to facilitate improved compatibility and widespread adoption, integration, and execution, allowing other standardization bodies to include it in their specifications. The Linux Foundation’s JDF was selected to host the project, providing an open, efficient, and effective pathway for developing OpenUSD specifications while paving the way for recognition by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The AOUSD will also serve as the main platform for defining improvements to the technology collaboratively by the broader industry. The alliance encourages a wide array of companies and organizations to join and take part in shaping the future of OpenUSD.

Diagram of OpenUSD that demonstrates it’s power as a technology for large scale, industrial workflows - including 3D.

Diagram of OpenUSD that demonstrates it’s power as a technology for large scale, industrial workflows. (Source – AOUSD)

According to Steve May, Pixar’s Chief Technology Officer and AOUSD’s Chairperson, OpenUSD is the product of years of research and application in Pixar’s filmmaking process. “We open-sourced the project in 2016, and the influence of OpenUSD now expands beyond film, visual effects, and animation and into other industries that increasingly rely on 3D data for media interchange. With the announcement of AOUSD, we signal the exciting next step: the continued evolution of OpenUSD as a technology and its position as an international standard,” May noted.

When May was asked about the challenges for AOUSD in promoting OpenUSD’s growth and acceptance, he highlighted two primary concerns. Firstly, the complexity of USD is daunting. Constructing a specification based on the comprehensive open-source code within the project, detailing 3D data and building virtual realities using various components and simulations, is challenging. Additional intricacies arise when assembling scenes from smaller parts.

Secondly, it is crucial to manage USD’s growth, given its potential for a wide range of applications. The goal is to avoid making it excessively complex and difficult to use by trying to encompass everything, without excluding any promising applications. Its growth is anticipated to be rapid, making its cautious and thoughtful management a formidable task.

3D technology in the emergence of the metaverse and generative AI

Despite these challenges, numerous potential end-user applications exist for USD within the creator economy, such as the “metaverse“, a term frequently associated with the evolution of the internet. Although its definition varies, the rise in 3D content usage seems inevitable. This will generate abundant opportunities for creators to disseminate their work more broadly. May foresees everything from artistic content to functional product designs.

Moreover, with generative AI in its early stages, its current focus is primarily on text and images. However, May believes it will soon encompass 3D, signifying a forthcoming surge in 3D content production. With USD’s ability to handle intricate virtual worlds and AI, it will be at the forefront of this transition. The potential applications and new business prospects for creators are limitless.

This new alliance could revolutionize the metaverse and 3D technology

This new alliance could revolutionize the metaverse and 3D technology. (Source – Shutterstock)

According to Guido Quaroni, Senior Director of Engineering, 3D&I at Adobe, Adobe is committed to offering artists a suite of flexible and powerful solutions operational on a variety of devices. “Leveraging a common 3D data representation during the creative process multiplies the value brought by each package and device. OpenUSD was created to be one of these ‘multipliers’ and we are excited to see a diverse group of companies joining together to support this innovative and open technology,” Quaroni explained.

This could mean a significant leap for Adobe, especially with its latest innovation, Firefly, a generative AI solution that brings unprecedented precision, power, and speed to Adobe’s broad suite of cloud applications. By integrating OpenUSD, the open-source Universal Scene Description technology developed by the Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD), Adobe’s new suite of tools will undoubtedly gain an advantage in the evolving landscape of 3D content creation and modification.

With Firefly set to enhance content creation capabilities across images, audio, vectors, videos, and 3D, the integration of OpenUSD could supercharge the software’s ability to manage complex 3D scenes, facilitating seamless and efficient workflows.

As AI-driven creativity continues to evolve, Firefly could use the standardized architecture of OpenUSD to render intricate virtual worlds, backed by robust standards and sophisticated algorithms. This standardization would prove crucial for Adobe, especially in the realm of 3D content generation, where complexity can often lead to efficiency bottlenecks.

Furthermore, Adobe’s collaboration with AOUSD signifies its commitment to openness and interoperability, aligning with its ethos of empowering creators. It also demonstrates Adobe’s recognition of the critical role that open standards play in the future of digital content creation.

The advent of generative AI like Firefly, coupled with the robustness of OpenUSD, marks a pivotal moment in Adobe’s journey. By harnessing the power of this technology, Adobe has the potential to redefine the boundaries of creative expression and productivity, setting a new benchmark for AI-powered creativity.

OpenUSD and the impact on Apple’s venture

On the other hand, Mike Rockwell, Apple’s Vice President of the Vision Products Group, believes that OpenUSD will expedite the next wave of AR experiences, ranging from artistic creation to content delivery, and produce an ever-expanding assortment of spatial computing applications.

“Apple has been an active contributor to the development of USD, and it is an essential technology for the groundbreaking visionOS platform, as well as the new Reality Composer Pro developer tool. We look forward to fostering its growth into a broadly adopted standard,” Rockwell remarked.

Of course, this raises questions about the kind of impact it will have on Apple. The company recently launched Apple’s Vision Pro, a new mixed reality headset unveiled at WWDC23, blending virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) into a seamless user experience. While the Vision Pro has drawn attention for its eye-catching design and high price, one of its most significant features lies under the hood.

The inclusion of OpenUSD could be a game-changer in shaping the headset’s capabilities. OpenUSD fosters interoperability across tools, data, and workflows. This technology, backed by AOUSD’s collective effort to standardize 3D ecosystems, could transform the Vision Pro from just a headset into a powerful tool capable of rendering intricate virtual worlds, backed by sophisticated algorithms and robust standards.

Apple’s active contribution to the development of USD is integral to its groundbreaking visionOS platform, suggesting a broader vision for the Vision Pro. As AR experiences continue to proliferate, OpenUSD’s standardization could enhance the headset’s capabilities and significantly impact future Apple headsets, paving the way for a more immersive, high-quality spatial computing experience.

By leaning into open standards like OpenUSD, Apple ensures its products are prepared to embrace the future of 3D content, which is crucial in our increasingly digital world. With Vision Pro, Apple doesn’t just launch a product, but sets sail into a new era of mixed reality, defined by interoperability, efficiency, and openness.

Further down the spectrum, NVIDIA’s strategic embrace of OpenUSD for its Omniverse platform signifies its pledge to cooperative and interoperable solutions in 3D development. Given the immense potential of the “metaverse” and the mutual benefits this alliance presents, NVIDIA is poised to make significant contributions to the collective endeavor.

OpenUSD’s role in shaping the future of 3D technology industry

However, the dynamic of this alliance is not solely dependent on the existing members. Companies like Unity, known for championing openness and interoperability in the game development industry, could significantly enhance the potency of OpenUSD. While not currently mentioned in this alliance, its participation, subject to alignment with business objectives, would be a welcome addition, reflecting the broad spectrum of the tech industry that could benefit from these open standards.

While the future interactions of these tech giants within the alliance remain to be seen, it’s essential to consider the potential motives behind establishing open standards. Open standards break down barriers, democratize access to technology, and drive innovation by promoting interoperability. This improves efficiency and allows for a more collaborative environment among content creators and developers across platforms.

Furthermore, as 3D technology finds increasing applications in gaming, virtual reality, design, and more, these tech companies have the unique opportunity to guide the direction of this burgeoning industry. In doing so, they ensure their products are positioned optimally within this evolving landscape, securing widespread adoption and use of their technologies.

Guy Martin, NVIDIA’s Director of Open Source and Standards, stated, “OpenUSD gives 3D developers, artists, and designers the complete foundation to tackle large-scale industrial, digital content creation, and simulation workloads with broad multi-app interoperability. This alliance is a unique opportunity to accelerate OpenUSD collaboration globally by building formal standards across industries and initiatives to realize 3D worlds and industrial digitalization.”

As industries increasingly harness the power of 3D modeling, rendering, and simulation, the role of open standards becomes even more essential. By promoting open, versatile, and dynamic standards, we can ensure that the world of 3D content continues to flourish, fostering innovation, enhancing collaboration, and inspiring a new era of digital creativity.