Apple joins Pixar and others to promote 3D tech standardisation

1 Aug 2023

Image: © Morumotto/

OpenUSD was created by Pixar to offer high-quality interoperable 3D technology to allow developers to collaborate on making advanced animation content.

Apple has joined the likes of Adobe, Pixar, Nvidia and Autodesk to create an alliance that promotes standardisation in 3D technology to enable greater interoperability for developers.

In an announcement today (1 August), Apple said it has launched the Alliance for OpenUSD (AOUSD) to standardise the 3D ecosystem by advancing the capabilities of Open Universal Scene Description.

The company said the alliance will enable developers and content creators to “describe, compose, and simulate large-scale 3D projects” and build a range of 3D-enabled products.

Created by Pixar Animation Studios, OpenUSD is a high-performance 3D scene description technology that offers strong interoperability across tools, data and workflows.

“Already known for its ability to collaboratively capture artistic expression and streamline cinematic content production, OpenUSD’s power and flexibility make it an ideal content platform to embrace the needs of new industries and applications,” Apple wrote.

“The alliance will develop written specifications detailing the features of OpenUSD. This will enable greater compatibility and wider adoption, integration, and implementation, and allows inclusion by other standards bodies into their specifications.”

Housing the project is the Joint Development Foundation, an affiliate of the Linux Foundation, that will enable open and efficient development of OpenUSD specifications while also providing a path to recognition through the International Organization for Standardization, or ISO.

Expansion beyond films

Steve May, chief technology officer at Pixar and chair of the alliance, said that universal scene description technology developed by the studio based on “years of research and application in filmmaking” forms the “technological foundation of our state-of-the-art animation pipeline”.

“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,” said May.

“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.”

The announcement comes just months before Apple is expected to release its Vision Pro mixed reality headset, which it announced at the tech giant’s annual developers conference in June.

Mike Rockwell, vice-president of the vision products group at Apple, said that OpenUSD will help accelerate the “next generation of AR experiences” from artistic creation to content delivery, and produce an “ever-widening array” 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.”

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Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic