March 12, 2024

Alliance of OpenUSD marks progress in mission with a series of announcements

The AOUSD announced the formation of two new working groups, eight new members, a new update to USD, and a new collaboration.
This image from Pixar’s upcoming “Inside Out 2” shows a final frame (left side) contrasted with the USD view of the same shot (right side) | Image via AOUSD

In August of last year, a group of five companies – Pixar, Adobe, Apple, Autodesk, and NVIDIA – announced the founding of the Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD). Created with the help of the Linux Foundation, the group’s mission was to promote “the interoperability of 3D content through OpenUSD (Universal Scene Description),” which was originally created by Pixar. A few months later, the working group announced a roadmap to work towards their goals over the next two years. On Monday, they took another step forward, announcing the formation of two new working groups, a new collaboration and eight new members joining the group.

The first of the working groups announced by AOUSD was the new Materials Working Group, which is tasked with standardizing material definitions within OpenUSD. In their release of the news, the group says this working group will “facilitate seamless collaboration for look development across multiple tools, applications, and renderers.” They go on to note that this work is particularly important for those industries who need a normative standard definition to encourage long-term stability.

The foundation for this new Materials Working Group, according to AOUSD, is a new liaison relationship between the group and the Academy Software Foundation (ASWF), which was announced at the same time as the new working group. ASWF is an organization focused on the “quality and quantity of contributions to the content creation industry’s open source software base,” per their website. This collaboration will involve working groups from AOUSD working alongside ASWF working groups on open USD and material interchange.

"We are excited to see the continued growth of the open source ecosystem surrounding USD. The Academy Software Foundation is working with AOUSD to incorporate the ideas and techniques developed by our USD Working Group - that now counts more than 1000 participants. Also, many of our projects have joint activities with AOUSD, such as MaterialX and its OpenPBR shading model. The formalization of our relationship will facilitate cross-collaboration and communication, accelerating open source adoption and interoperability across the industry," said David Morin, Executive Director of the Academy Software Foundation in a statement.

Along with the Materials Working Group, AOUSD also announced the creation of a new Geometry Working Group. This builds on work that had been done by the already existing Core Specification Working Group, with the new addition being tasked with drafting specifications for “describing surfaces, shapes, and volumes in USD for both virtual and physical worlds,” along with specifying “interoperability standards for CAD geometry data.” AOUSD points out that this work is important for all kinds of companies which will theoretically be using openUSD, with entertainment needing to ensure that geometry will look and behave the same across mediums, while industrial users need to ensure reliability and longevity of design.

In addition to the new working groups, this announcement also included the release of OpenUSD v24.03 from Pixar, which they say “introduces new features that enhance usability and compatibility across different platforms and applications.” In particular, they highlight how this latest release opens up easier use of openUSD in international communities thanks to the support of Unicode identifiers. Now, content creators and industrial stakeholders “all over the world” are able to encode USD in their native languages, per AOUSD.

Finally, this announcement also welcomes eight new general members to the AOUSD fold. The newest members are: Ansys, Bright Machines, Intel, Maxon, Siemens, Trimble, Worley, and WPP.

There are a couple of major takeaways from this, starting with this AOUSD making big strides in a short amount of time. This isn’t terribly surprising given the statue of the companies involved, but it is always easier said than done to make a tool standard across massive industries like entertainment, media, AEC, manufacturing, and more. Creating specialized working groups not only helps propel the goals forward, but also shows a clear focus on what is important to continue the momentum towards openUSD becoming a true standard across industry. Specifically in this case, the moves toward making it more accessible to international users is crucial in an increasingly global economy.

Furthermore, it’s really interesting to see the continued presence of the geospatial community in this work. While geospatial accuracy isn’t necessarily important for all uses of openUSD – it was, afterall, originally created for Pixar films – for the more industrial use cases location and overall geospatial accuracy will be crucial. Hexagon joined the AOUSD late last year, and now we see Trimble involved, to say nothing of Cesium’s involvement from the beginning. It still remains to be seen where the 3D ecosystem will end up long-term, but it’s clear geospatial information will be a big part of it.

“Trimble is thrilled to join AOUSD at this early stage and to support the community’s efforts to standardize OpenUSD,” said Aviad Almagor, vice president, Technology Innovation at Trimble in a statement. “Our goal is to help strengthen the OpenUSD ecosystem and democratize 3D, ensuring that all stakeholders benefit from the groundbreaking potential of sustainable and interoperable data standards.”

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