The recent renaissance in both virtual reality (VR, and
in particular, WebVR) and mixed reality (MR) has highlighted a
common missing element – the lack of protocol support for shared
VR and MR environments.
While single-user environments have their uses, the last
twenty years of the Web have conclusively demonstrated
connectivity and collaboration provide overwhelming benefits. To
have global reach, VR and MR must be built atop an open foundation
of protocols supporting connectivity. Without that support,
development and deployment of shared VR and MR environments will
be slow and piecemeal, under-serving the potential of these new
The Mixed Reality Service (MRS) provides one necessary
service: the capacity to map URIs to arbitrary geospatial or 3D
MRS is being submitted for consideration at the W3C
Workshop on the Web & Virtual Reality.
From the abstract:
The Mixed Reality Service (MRS) provides registration and
discovery services binding the real world of geospatial
coordinates to the virtual world of Universal Resource Identifiers
(URIs). The MRS protocol consists of three commands: ‘add’ and
‘delete’, which allow additions and deletions to a mapping of
geographical coordinates to URIs; plus ‘search’, which performs
searches by geospatial coordinates, returning a list of matching
mapped URIs. Potential uses of MRS include mixed reality
applications, guidance for autonomous vehicles and drones, and
vastly simplified delivery of nearly all location-based services.
Simple modifications to MRS make it suitable for shared virtual
MRS – or something much like it – has been needed for two
decades. Its initial incarnation as ‘Cyberspace Protocol’ formed
the basis of the Pesce/Parisi WWW1 paper that gave birth to VRML.
The recent faux pas of Pokémon Go – putting players into danger, and
producing numerous trespass and nuisance violations – highlights
the immediate need for Internet-wide protocol support, so mixed
reality applications can be deployed safely at global
In the positive case, MRS provides a mechanism for space
to ‘speak for itself’. All resources relevant to a place can be
presented through a mapped URI. The use cases for this capacity
range from the prosaic - such as providing the opening hours of a
public park; through the needful - enumerating the environmental
risks that first responders might encounter at any given location;
all the way to applications as sophisticated as publishing the
flight paths for autonomous drones finding their way through an
urban landscape. In each use case, the real world benefits from a
injection of metadata.
Mixed Reality Service has been designed to be easy for
client applications to implement; best-practice approaches to
security provide reasonable assurances of both privacy and
These are early days in the WebVR revolution.
The networked nature of the medium means VR and MR applications
could soon be scaling to large numbers of simultaneous users.
Where Internet-wide protocol-level support is available, these
applications - and WebVR itself - have the best chance of mass
Device APIs are important. We also need
protocols that make it easy for applications and devices to work
at global scale. MRS is far from the only protocol we will need in
the years to come, but we need it now - and the need will only
grow more pressing as VR and MR become quotidian.