VR Industry Forum Formed to Boost Adoption of VR Services

28 major companies collaborate to promote the adoption and end-to-end interoperability of VR across key media and entertainment sectors
At CES in Las Vegas, 28 companies announced the Virtual Reality Industry Forum, Inc. (VRIF), a not-for-profit company with its purpose stated as, “To further the widespread availability of high-quality audiovisual VR experiences, for the benefit of consumers.” The Founding Members of VRIF are Akamai Technologies, ARRIS International plc, b<>com, Baylor University, CableLabs, Cinova Media, Dolby Laboratories, DTG, DTS, EBU, Ericsson, Fraunhofer, Harmonic, Huawei, Intel, Irdeto, Ittiam, MovieLabs, NABPILOT, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., Technicolor, TNO, Sky, Sony Pictures, Vantrix, Verizon, Viaccess-Orca and Orah.

The Forum has grown out of a series of informal meetings, initiated by the DTG, and held over the past 12 months, which involved over 200 people from a large group of companies. The group discussed how to advocate consensus around industry standards for the creation of an interoperable, end-to-end ecosystem presenting high-quality audio-visual VR services. These are services where users can experience audiovisual content, live or on-demand, through VR headsets but also on traditional “2D devices” such as tablets.

“We hope to ensure that the VR industry avoids the fragmentation of standards and formats that has plagued audio-visual media in the past,” said David Price, Vice President, Business Development at Ericsson. “We expect that many of those involved in the original informal discussions will join VRIF shortly.”

The goals of VRIF include:
• Advocating voluntary industry consensus around common technical standards for the end-to-end VR ecosystem, from creation to delivery and consumption
• Advocating the creation and adoption of interoperable standards (VRIF will not develop standards itself); promoting the use of common profiles across the industry, and promoting and demonstrating interoperability
• Developing voluntary guidelines that describe best practices, to ensure high quality VR experiences
• Describing and promoting the use of VR services and applications

VRIF is composed of a broad range of participants from sectors including, but not limited to, the movie, television, mobile, broadcast and interactive gaming ecosystems, comprising content creators, content distributors, consumer electronics manufacturers, professional equipment manufacturers and technology companies. Membership in VRIF is open to all parties that support its mission. VRIF will rely on Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) to develop relevant standards, and will seek to establish liaisons with such SDOs.

Membership and further information can be found at the website at www.vr-if.org.

CES 2017 FAQ Sheet

Q: Why do we need a VR Industry Forum?
A: There are well founded concerns that this nascent industry will be fragmented by numerous proprietary solutions such that content will have to have multiple versions to fit each of these. The consumer will be limited in choice to having to adopt one of these proprietary solutions so that we end up at home with a coffee table with as many head mounted displays as we had remote controls in the past. The short term time to market advantage of such proprietary solutions is overshadowed by the much greater longer term advantage of having standards based interoperable elements at each section of the creation, delivery and consumption chain.
Q: How does the VR Industry Forum differ from other industry associations such as the VRAR Association, the VR Society and the Immersive Technology Alliance?
A: First and foremost, the VRIF has an end to end perspective; from the initial creative story telling through to the human consumption. This involves a lot of moving parts that all have to work in synch for the best user experience. Other associations have a bias towards certain verticals such as gaming or certain sectors such as Head Mounted Displays. We are a Forum rather than an Association meaning that we come together to exchange ideas and to seek a greater understanding of a very complex creation, delivery and consumption model.
Q: Who are the founding Members of the VR Industry Forum?
A: The Founding Members are a diverse range of organizations ranging from operators such as Sky and Verizon, to broad technology providers such as Ericsson and Huawei, to industry bodies such as MovieLabs and CableLabs to academia such as Baylor University. The Forum is open to anyone who supports its goal of furthering the widespread availability of high-quality audiovisual VR experiences, for the benefit of consumers.
Q: Will the VR Industry Forum be creating standards?
A: No. The VRIF has enshrined in its Bylaws the statement that it is not a Standards Defining Organization but instead, will work closely with the SDOs to help prioritize their efforts and to provide the industry with guidelines on the best practices for adopting the standards coming from the SDOs. 
Q: When will the VR Industry Forum deliver its guidelines?
A: We see an immediate need to resolve the fragmentation already appearing in the “VR Media” ecosystem so we can expect some initial results in 2017.
Q: What advantages does the VR Industry Forum bring to its members?
A: membership in the forum will allow organizations to have much greater influence with the SDOs in their task of creating standards and in advocating for their universal adoption. It will also allow influence in the creation of Guidelines that will facilitate such adoption. Being part of this Forum also brings involvement in interop testing that will accelerate product and solution development.
Q: Will the VR Industry Forum be conducting interoperability testing?
A: We are in the early stages of our formation but already see a need for interop testing to validate our goals of creating best practice guidelines. To this end we are open to all organizations at all parts of the overall ecosystem and by being so can create end to end plug fests. The more members we have the better any such testing will be.
Q: What types of membership are available at the VRIF
A: We have 3 levels of membership. The first is at the Charter level for companies who want to bring the biggest influence in the direction of this organization. Charter members can run for Board positions. The Contributor level is for organizations that want to make a difference but perhaps do not have the resources to devote to board level activities. Finally, there is the Associate level for smaller companies with revenues less than $10m per year, for academia and for not-for-profit organizations