back to article It started at Pixar. Now it's the Apple-backed 3D file format viewed as HTML of metaverse

An open-source file format adopted by Apple, and the origins of which can be traced back 30 years, is getting a fresh look as hype grows around the building of a metaverse without borders. The Universal Scene Description, or USD, was described as the "HTML of 3D" by Richard Kerris, vice president of the Omniverse platform at …

  1. David 132 Silver badge

    So not VRML then.

    I read "Nvidia pushes 30-year-old description language for the internet of the future" and my first thought was.. oh no, not VRML again.

    So virtual reality is back on the hype-train, eh? Nothing new under the sun.

    Appropriate icon -->

    1. Valeyard

      Re: So not VRML then.

      I just came to the comments to say that I thought VRML was meant to be the future! that university module I had to take, i thought this was going to be my time to shine!

      1. HxBro

        Re: So not VRML then.

        I miss floops, VRML at it's finest

    2. mevets

      Re: So not VRML then.

      The terminology has changed. Now it is (something)verse. Sadly is taken.

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: So not VRML then.


  2. Richard 12 Silver badge

    USD is ****ing awful

    There is exactly one implementation.


    It's Pixar's. Everything else is a wrapper around the Pixar implementation.

    As an example of how it's awful:

    The container is ZIP. So far, so normal.

    But all the files inside the ZIP must be non-compressed (STORE), and aligned.

    So you cannot use any of the existing ZIP implementations to save or edit USD, you have to write your own to enforce the alignment.

    And of course, if a user ever uses any ZIP software to alter the ZIP in any way, the file is corrupted and cannot be opened by compliant software.

    Except that it's still a ZIP and still has all the data in there, it's just that Pixar decided you can't.

    Incidentally, glTF is in process of becoming ISO. And MS 3D Paint edits it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: USD is ****ing awful


      It’s basically like a Quake3 .pk3 file or a Quake/Quake2 pack file, or a Doom WAD.

      Cool, cool.

      It would seem a lot of us oldies might be relevant again.

      1. CommonBloke

        Re: USD is ****ing awful

        Only the id software formats would still work if you fiddled with it and saved using winrar

        Also, with Quake 2 receiving RTX light and shading, that stuff is still relevant today!

    2. McNopper

      Re: USD is ****ing awful

      One can also edit glTF in Gestaltor, BTW.

      Furthermore, if we talk about 3D and NFT, it is glTF.

      Which format can be used e.g. in Oculus Home or AltspaceVR? It is glTF.

      I startet to make an overview where glTF is used in the Metaverse:

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: USD is ****ing awful

        Looks good but minor suggestion: "meters"-->"metres"

        If you want to maximize adoption/take-up, no sense hurting the heads/creating semantic drag in 100% of the world minus America.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: USD is ****ing awful

          Particularly as the US is one of the three remaining backwards countries that still use Imperial units. They certainly should not get to mess up the spelling at the same time as not actually using the units.

          US scientists, and similar, in general use metric units so their work remains valid and usable throughout the world. Things have a nasty habit of going wrong when they don't.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: USD is ****ing awful

            Totes agree. Even *we* spell it the French way! Now that has to count for something.

  3. Chris G Silver badge

    A question

    As it is looking like VR metaverses are the latest bandwagon that everyone, his dog, cat and budgie is jumping into, I assume that if the world's users fall for the hype, there will be a huge increase necessary in processing power and servers to run this/these new universe/s.

    Has anyone got around to calculating the requirements and consequent environmental impact?

    As someone here mentioned on another thread

    ' just because you could, doesn' t mean you should.'

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: A question

      No, I don't think anyone did. However, I'm fairly optimistic that it won't matter, because hardly anyone will use the stuff.

      Of all the myriad things I do on the Internet, I literally can't think of a single one that would be improved by being in a simulated virtual environment, except for gaming. But gaming is already in 3D, even in VR if you want to, and has been for a while. If I think really hard, I may come up with a few niche cases - buying clothes, maybe? I dunno.

      I'm open to being surprised, but so far this new wave of VR hype appears to be sorely lacking use cases.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A question

        Use case...

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: A question

          Not to mention all the SF films showing people waving their arms around to move files and stuff in a virtual 3D interface. It looks like a boring old file management task could become a decent upper body workout :-)

          Attach a treadmill and you can run down the length of your backup looking for that file yet another user managed to accidentally delete. The nerds and geeks can be the new bodybuilders of the future! Beef and brains! Get the girls! What's not to like?

          1. Blank Reg Silver badge

            Re: A question

            Sync the clock speed of the CPU/GPU to the treadmill speed, if you want to run faster then you literally have to run faster. By the next Olympics all the running events will be won by gamers :)

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: A question

      "As it is looking like VR metaverses are the latest bandwagon that everyone, his dog, cat and budgie is jumping into, I assume that if the world's users fall for the hype, there will be a huge increase necessary in processing power and servers to run this/these new universe/s."

      If this had been hyped 2 years ago, we'd all be accusing NVidia of trying to create a new and more volatile market for their products. Looking at the GFX card market at the moment, getting into a 3D VR Metaverse could be expensive. Oh wait....

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "If USD creates a library that can eliminate this work for the user, it will go a long way to ... allow use of USD in browser based applications,""

    Exactly in the same way Jpeg was successful: it came with it's open source lib, probably still used today.

    But I don't get it why people are making the comparison with HTML since:

    - given the mess many web sites were in, vs. W3C HTML specs (thanks, MS and IE !), the comparison just shoots its own foot

    - the metaverse is mostly about VR, right ? Soooo, you don't come to even see/use a browser !

    So far, if any 3D modelling language comes up as supported by many tools (drawing, gaming engines, etc ...), this may indeed come as a real thing.

    If, at contrario, it ends up in a format war, ala HTML, Betamax/VHS etc, not much will really happen.

    1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Re: Jpeg

      Re: - the metaverse is mostly about VR, right ? Soooo, you don't come to even see/use a browser !

      I don't think anyone is saying you will use a browser, but the various clients used to access it will need a standardised system for describing the models and scenes, much like browsers need a standardised system for describing web pages.

      This, for all it's faults, is one attempt.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Jpeg

        Quite right. Rendering HTML in a browser is only one aspect of what you can do with HTML.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't let the idiots that made the web retarded design it's replacemet

        Please resist the inevitable attempts to force HTML into the architecture of what will probably eventually replace it. HTML is technically and architecturally retarded, and shouldn't be let anywhere near something that will be as bandwidth intensive as realtime AR/VR. If you are going to build a solid foundation for something that will be demanding from both a performance standpoint and is going to be loading tons of material from not entirely trustworthy sources, HTML is NOT the answer.

        Build it with a compressed, unambiguously coded binary storage format that doesn't suffer from encapsulation problems, and isn't prone to obfuscation. Give the webmonkeys a library to unpack the stuff to HTML/XML to keep them from making 7 different version of the same thing that are all wrong. Build protocol dissectors for Wireshark et al, so people won't have to gripe about human readability.

        This is our biggest and best shot to craw out of the festering sewer that our generations have turned the internet into. If we allow those that broke what we have now to build what we be using for the next couple of human generations, we have ourselves to blame.

        1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

          Re: Don't let the idiots that made the web retarded design it's replacemet

          Are you an out of work Macromedia Flash "website" developer?

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Jpeg

      "If, at contrario, it ends up in a format war, ala HTML, Betamax/VHS etc, not much will really happen."

      Something will happen. Most likely, the least technically useful format will win because there's more ways to make money from it.

      1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

        Re: Jpeg

        The winner? The one the pron companies use to export their "models"....

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Jpeg



          The "M" stands for Masturbation.

  5. andy 103

    The metaverse can kiss my balls*

    All the problems going on in the world and we're focusing on bullshit like this.

    It's a strange set of priorities for the human species to put such time, resource, energy and effort into essentially allowing us to live inside a Pixar world.

    No thanks.

    * My real, non-virtual balls

    1. Bob9911

      Re: The metaverse can kiss my balls*

      Thank you - my sentiments exactly. All the people dying in the world because of hunger, but at least we can sleep safely in out beds knowing that USD and Metaverse is the current "thing"....

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: The metaverse can kiss my balls*

      When a third of the world is submerged, a third of the world is too hot for human habitation, and we're all packed into the other third - with the remaining land disproportionately allocated to the rich - living in a Pixar world 24/7 might be heaven.

      I've reserved my shipping crate, my force-feedback treadmill and my headset. I was wondering about some oil drum floats, a fishing net and some charcoal briquettes so I can float the oceans and live off barbecued algae.

      1. Raphael

        Re: The metaverse can kiss my balls*

        Wasn't there an episode of Sliders where they ended up in a dystopic reality where everyone was plugged into their VR thinking things were great, but in reality were slaves living in squalor.

        1. DiViDeD

          Re: The metaverse can kiss my balls*

          Don't know about Sliders, but there was The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem, where the wondrous opulent world became grimmer and grimmer as one illusory layer after another was stripped away.

          Why was everyone in the express elevator breathing so hard and turning red?

        2. davidp231

          Re: The metaverse can kiss my balls*

          I'd rather run with Better Than Life, personally.

    3. Blank Reg Silver badge

      Re: The metaverse can kiss my balls*

      The ball kissing feature is available by subscription only, would you like the monthly or yearly plan?

  6. Christopher O'Neill

    The "HTML of 3D"

    Is it that bad?

    1. Howard Sway Silver badge

      Re: The "HTML of 3D"

      No, it's an extra dimension of bad.

      Anyone who knows the difference between writing 2D and 3D computer games knows just how much extra work that means, and how many extra problems it introduces.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The "HTML of 3D"

        And anyone working in bio-mechanics or other location specific sciences knows that all these "3D" measurements are just guesswork, fine for animation but when you watch the Titanic movie you'll see some of the first 3D animations of the crew walking around and sliding on the deck because they mismatched it..

        Biomechanics uses the public C3D file format, created in the 80's and still 100% completely functional and accurate ... if the actual 3D measurement system is accurate - but these days 3D data collection is "easy to do" because hardly anyone bothers to check or demonstrate the accuracy, it only has to look good.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The "HTML of 3D"

      It's actually worse, because:

      > an engine reads the procedural description of how to stitch a scene together

      Which indicates that the file format isn't merely declarative like HTML, but also has to be executed like JavaScript.

  7. 4t0m1c4

    VRML/X3D/POV/insert old acronym here

    The 1990's called, they want their blaxxun servers back!

    File formats are political, and convertible. Nobody is going to develop/save their proprietary world assets in deliverable content formats anyway, and once the landscape fragments into incompatible client features again, we will see the favourite proprietary format toolset acquired by Autodesk ..

    On another note for those who got lost in this stuff, Cosmoworlds editor still works on windows 10 if you know how ;)

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's wrong

    with SVG?

  9. CommonBloke

    Meanwhile, in alternativeland

    Blender's .blend files support all those things: animation, lights, shades, camera, scenes, etc etc, and it's fully open source.

  10. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    All this "Metaverse" talk...

    ...what's wrong with the real world, or "Meatverse", if you like?

    Nobody is going to spend an appreciable amount of time with something the weight of half a house-brick, strapped to their head that pumps images into your eyes that are like reality, but with a lower frame rate, laggy, and probably slightly out of focus to give you eye-strain. VR head-sets are a gimmick, that people buy, use a couple of times for playing games, before realising that being sat in front of a large monitor is just as immersive, and then put to one side to gather dust. They're a toy, and not a tool for anything useful, and pumping lots of investment into them ain't gonna change that...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: All this "Metaverse" talk...

      The same things are true of many niche technologies, however things do progress and improve.

      There are non-game usages of VR headsets, but that's an aside as just because something has a current primary usage that is there for entertainment, is that a bad thing? Markets and industries do not work in isolation, there is a lot of cross over between them and while there may not be a huge amount of cross over from VR headsets outside of gaming and entertainment, it's definitely there. It's relatively early but the teaching, architecture/engineering and medical fields immediately come to mind.

      We're not going to see executives in a board room all plugged into VR to examine their annual report and accounts, but that's just the kind of nonsense from Hollywood that we all have to suffer with and ignore and shouldn't be used to detract from real usage.

  11. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Please, no

    Things have changed to be dynamic and interactive in the past 20+ years.

    Video technology took a huge hit with the MPEG4 container was based on the ancient QuickTime structure. The structure starts with a complete TOC so it requires two passes to create. It can't be streamed during creation.

    1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: Please, no

      The TOC has to be somewhere and the beginning of a stream, as in the container, is a good place for it. The end certainly isn't and it's not particularly efficient to repeatedly include it within the content either.

      If video or audio is streaming then a TOC just cannot exist because one does not know the exact length nor the exact data offset within the stream(s) that would be referred to in the TOC. Just like how you couldn't write a Table of Contents in a document and not have to go back and fill in the page numbers after you've written the content.

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