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In its most recent “U.S. Consumer Technology Sales and Forecasts,” the Consumer Technology Association called out virtual reality (VR) headsets as among the top consumer electronics products that might see a record year. Sales could reach 2.5 million units (79 percent increase) and $660 million in revenues (43 percent increase), according to the association’s report.

But as the burgeoning VR industry potentially blasts off, fragmentation of formats, lack of standardization, and interoperability are very real technical challenges. However, a newly formed industry group is looking to take them on to help further the widespread availability of high-quality audiovisual VR. The Virtual Reality Industry Forum was announced by 28 companies on Thursday at CES in Las Vegas, and its founding members are Akamai Technologies, Arris, Baylor University, CableLabs, Cinova Media, Dolby Laboratories, DTG, DTS, EBU, Ericsson, Fraunhofer, Harmonic, Huawei, Intel, Irdeto, Ittiam, MovieLabs, NAB Pilot, Qualcomm, Technicolor, TNO, Sky, Sony Pictures, Vantrix, Verizon, Viaccess-Orca, and Orah.

Several informal meetings reportedly were the seed of the group’s development. Those were initiated by the DTG and held over the past 12 months, which involved more than 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,” a statement released by the VRIF says. “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.”

David Price, VP, business development at Ericsson, reports that forum members are aiming to ensure that the VR industry avoids the fragmentation of standards and formats that has previously plagued audiovisual media. “We expect that many of those involved in the original informal discussions will join VRIF shortly,” Price adds.

The VRIF could play a fundamental role in helping the VR industry truly grow, and this coming year might prove a critical one for the technology, Chris Johns, chief engineer, broadcast strategy at Sky says. “VRIF will seek to establish best practices to ensure a high-quality user experience, and we believe this is crucial for the market to take off,” Johns observes. “We all expect that 2017 will be the year when intense consumer interest in VR spurs a quantum leap in the user experience.”

According to the VRIF statement, its goals 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 reportedly open to “all parties that support its purpose, and is complementary to other industry organizations in that it will focus on the end-to-end ecosystem for media and entertainment VR.”

More info is here.

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