Today, several companies in Japan announced the upcoming creation of a joint enterprise called “VRM Consortium” (in February), which has one goal: develop the Virtual Reality business, and more precisely 3D avatars. Its main objective (for now at least) is to have the VRM file format become the standard for 3D human models in Virtual Reality. And despite not being directly involved in anything related to Virtual Reality at the moment (at least, not publicly), Nintendo is one of the companies taking part in that joint enterprise, though as a mere “Observer”.
In case you’re not familiar with that term: “Observer” is a special status granted to a person or company who wants to take part in the activities of a certain organization, but without becoming a full member. An observer usually do not have any voting rights, and its participation is limited.
Nintendo becoming an Observer for VRM Consortium indicates that the company has an interest in Virtual Reality, and more precisely 3D avatars. This isn’t as surprising as it may seem, as Tatsumi Kimishima (the former president of Nintendo) previously indicated that Nintendo was “looking into” VR:
More surprisingly, it was revealed that Nintendo was “looking into” Virtual Reality, but Tatsumi Kimishima explained it would take more time and effort for them to assess the technology. In other words: don’t expect the company to announce anything in that regard any time soon.
And last year, he confirmed the company was “studying” VR.
Since Nintendo is only joining VRM Consortium as “Observer”, it’s pretty clear it’s not going to announce any VR project or device any time soon (especially since Nintendo might only be interested in the 3D avatars themselves).
Here’s the list of companies involved in the VRM Consoritum:
- Unity Technologies Japan
- IVR (virtual reality development company)
- XVI (virtual reality development company)
- Wright Flyer Live (GREE’s Virtual YouTuber company)
- Showroom (livestreaming platform)
- Mirrative (livestreaming platform)
- Dwango (that Nintendo has a minority stake in)
- S-Court (online game sales platform)
- DUO (Virtual YouTuber and amusement development company)
- Virtual Cast (VR distribution platform)
- Cluster (virtual event platform developer)
- Crypton Future Media
One of the key advantages of the VRM format is that it’s platform agnostic, free to use, and open source. The companies involved with this project argue that VRM becoming a standard will streamline the creation process for games and any projects using 3D avatars in VR.
Nintendo is already involved in similiar initiatives, such as Khronos for the Vulkan API, though the puzzling bit is that Nintendo doesn’t have anything Virtual Reality announced (let alone released).
Here’s a promo video for VRM Consortium: