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Shortly before SIGGRAPH 2023, the Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD) was established, marking a significant development in the 3D technology sector. The alliance includes prominent members like Pixar, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, and NVIDIA, focusing on standardizing and furthering OpenUSD 3D data specifications and technologies. This collaboration aims to enable 3D interoperability to better enable 3D content creation workflows, industrial digitalization, and graphics experiences such as spatial computing.

Unifying the Vision for 3D Interoperability

AOUSD embodies a cohesive vision for the evolution of 3D technology. Panelists at the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF) Open Source Days event on August 6 called OpenUSD the “new era of 3D web.” This notion resonated deeply, capturing this initiative’s anticipation and promise. The alliance seeks to revolutionize 3D projects’ cross-system interoperability, transforming how we can connect and collaborate across 3D tools, data, and projects.

During the keynote panel session, Steve May, CTO at Pixar and Chairperson of AOUSD, explained why now was the right time to form the alliance, stating,

“USD has been around at Pixar since 2013…We wanted to share it with everyone; we also wanted our artists to have the best tools available. We wanted to be able to quickly adapt to new tools and integrate them into the pipeline. It was time for USD to take the next step. It must become a standard, not just defined by what we checked into the code base.”

Guido Quaroni, Senior Director of Engineering of 3D and Immersive at Adobe, emphasized the need for standardization, comparing OpenUSD to PDF, ensuring it would be recognized years from now.

“PDF took off over the years but was also something standardized, and it was guaranteed that if you have a PDF document, years from now, it’s going to be understood. I can see ways that USD as a standard can help really simplify the life of all the artists out there.”

Interoperability and Standardization: The Heart of AOUSD

Interoperability entails seamless collaboration between diverse systems, tools, and applications. In the context of 3D technology, 3D content created in one software can effortlessly be edited, opened, and utilized in another without compromising data or functionality. AOUSD’s central mission is to facilitate this capability, promoting synergy across platforms and tools, thus fostering innovation and efficiency within the 3D sector.

Panelists emphasized the significance of interoperability and the absence of standardized 3D file formats as significant hindrances to collaboration and innovation. AOUSD intends to surmount these obstacles by creating a shared language for 3D content, paving the way for seamless cooperation.

AOUSD: Pioneering a Path to Collaboration

Standardization refers to establishing universal guidelines or specifications for all participants within an industry or field. In the case of OpenUSD, standardization involves creating a unified 3D source data interchange across a spectrum of platforms and tools.

The process of standardizing OpenUSD through AOUSD is about more than just establishing a common 3D source data interchange; it’s about fostering a collaborative ecosystem that brings together diverse stakeholders within the 3D industry. By providing a standardized description of 3D scenes, OpenUSD aims to enable the development of interconnected virtual realms, nurturing collaboration and ingenuity.

OpenUSD is also a holistic ecosystem supporting the entire 3D content creation process, including data modeling, rendering, and collaboration. It standardizes communication among creators and developers, enhancing interoperability between 3D tools and simplifying data exchanges across software applications. This ensures efficient collaboration and smooth asset management. A notable feature of OpenUSD is its support for non-destructive workflows, allowing artists to make changes without affecting the original data. Moreover, its extensible framework empowers developers to create custom tools and APIs, ensuring adaptability to evolving industry demands.

Guy Martin, Director of Open Source and Standards at NVIDIA, highlighted the importance of USD in industries beyond entertainment, such as industrial manufacturing and large-scale simulation.

“We’re obviously excited about the alliance and our role in starting it. We believe it’s going to raise the tide for all involved, not just in the visual effects space, but also in the AEC, industrial, and manufacturing sectors.”

Navigating Challenges and Solutions

While interoperability and standardization are formidable challenges, AOUSD’s collaborative approach aims to surmount them. Panelists acknowledged these complexities but expressed confidence in AOUSD’s ability to overcome these obstacles through collective effort.

AOUSD’s collaborative approach, bringing together industry leaders and experts, aims to develop 3D source data interchange specifications and technologies that can flexibly accommodate diverse requirements while maintaining high levels of standardization. This inclusive strategy ensures that OpenUSD is shaped by input from a wide array of stakeholders, enhancing its likelihood of attaining true interoperability.

Wide-ranging Industry Backing and Collaboration

The formation of AOUSD has united a remarkable array of industry heavyweights and influential entities. In addition to the launch members, companies such as Unity, Foundry, and SideFX have all pledged their support to the alliance. Their combined expertise and resources are anticipated to drive the development and standardization of OpenUSD.

Panelists reaffirmed their dedication to AOUSD’s objectives and underscored the significance of a unified approach to 3D technology, accentuating collaboration as pivotal to innovation.

The involvement of major game engine developers like Unity is particularly noteworthy. Their participation bridges the gap between the film and gaming industries, enabling seamless integration of 3D assets across diverse media.

Support from software developers such as Foundry and SideFX, renowned for their innovative content-creation tools, further underscores OpenUSD’s importance for artists and creators. Standardizing 3D source data interchange aims to empower creators with greater workflow flexibility and efficiency.

Eric Bourque, VP of content creation at Autodesk, cited the importance of adhering to a standard for industry tooling:

“Our customers are using a multitude of tools in addition to Autodesk’s. Production isn’t homogeneous; customers need flexibility and choice with their tooling and pipelines. That’s why it’s super important for us that we adhere to the standard. The versatility of AOUSD has allowed us to reimagine how we structure and present content online.”

Empowering 3D content and Generative AI

The ascent of digital worlds has unlocked new frontiers for 3D content creation, and OpenUSD is poised to play a central role in this burgeoning ecosystem. Collective 3D shared spaces created by converging virtually enhanced physical reality, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and the internet require a standardized approach to articulating 3D scenes.

OpenUSD’s potential for standardization of the 3D graphics and content industry signifies its foundational role in constructing interconnected virtual domains. OpenUSD could facilitate creating a seamless and immersive 3D experience by offering a standardized approach to describing intricate virtual scenes. Guy Martin at NVIDIA noted:

“OpenUSD is to the graphics industry what HTML was to the web. It’s foundational. It’s democratizing. And it’s allowing us to create shared experiences in ways we couldn’t before.”

Panelists at the ASWF Open Source Days event drew parallels between OpenUSD and HTML, emphasizing OpenUSD’s capacity to describe complex virtual landscapes, much like HTML’s portrayal of webpages. This analogy underscores OpenUSD’s pioneering essence and its potential to become a universal language for creating digital worlds.

Guido Quaroni said,

“HTML brought us the first wave of the internet. OpenUSD might bring us the next.”

Generative AI, which leverages machine learning algorithms to create content, has become a powerful tool in the realm of 3D technology. OpenUSD’s proficiency in handling intricate virtual worlds and AI are steering the course for the future of 3D content, enabling more dynamic and responsive virtual environments.

The collaboration between AOUSD and AI developers aims to explore fresh applications and innovations in 3D technology, ushering in groundbreaking advancements. By standardizing 3D source data interchange, OpenUSD empowers AI algorithms to generate, manipulate, and interact with 3D content more efficiently.

OpenUSD's Future with AOUSD: A Pathway to Innovation

OpenUSD’s advancement within the AOUSD framework has garnered the attention of numerous industry professionals, underscoring its significance in setting future standards. The creation of AOUSD highlights the pivotal role of joint efforts in advancing the 3D technology sector.

AOUSD embodies a unified commitment to promoting collaboration in 3D technology. With the insights from the ASWF Open Source Days panel serving as a testament, it’s evident that the industry’s anticipation for OpenUSD’s transformative potential in computer graphics, virtual realms, and generative AI is palpable and poised for impactful breakthroughs.

In addition to the Open Source Days panel, NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang highlighted AOUSD and the importance of the OpenUSD ecosystem in his SIGGRAPH Keynote. AOUSD members such as Adobe, Cesium, NVIDIA, Pixar, and SideFX presented talks on OpenUSD at SIGGRAPH.

If your company is interested in joining the Alliance for OpenUSD, sign up to become a member. Check out the AOUSD website to learn more about the organization and what membership entails. Follow AOUSD on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. For more resources, check out our forum.