Qualcomm, just like many other technology companies, believes there is a future in augmented reality and virtual reality technology. The two technologies tend to intersect so often that some are combining the two and referring to them both as “XR.” We talked about Qualcomm’s work in this area recently with the Snapdragon 3100 SoC but it looks as if the company’s first dedicated chipset for augmented reality and virtual reality devices will be called the Snapdragon XR1. The chip will be used for dedicated AR and VR headsets and we’re told to expect them in the second half of 2018.
The company has been working on the heterogeneous computing technology that will be shipping with the Snapdragon XR1 chipset. For many, it will look like the typical SoC that we currently see in smartphones and wearables on the market today. However, Qualcomm has been working to improve the Snapdragon XR1 in areas that will help our current AR and VR technologies. This includes UltraHD video playback, 6DoF head tracking, 3DoF and 6DoF controllers, Qualcomm’s Aqstic voice UI and support for QuadHD+ (2K) displays.
We have barely scratched the surface of what virtual reality and augmented reality is capable of and Qualcomm knows this. The big areas of interest are naturally going to be virtual reality videos and games for a bit, but some feel that it’s augmented reality that will actually be the breakthrough technology here. The IDC has been studying this technology for a while and their current estimates put the market at around 186 million standalone devices in consumer’s hands by the end of 2023.
As with most new platforms, Qualcomm isn’t expecting things to get too crazy right out of the gate. However, the team has been able to score some partnerships with the likes of Meta, Pico, Vuzix, and Vive. They will continue to market their latest flagship SoC (currently the Snapdragon 845) for high-end smartphones, but they feel the XR1 will be well suited for devices like the Oculus Go and other headsets where component cost is an important factor. As of this time, Qualcomm has chosen to not disclose the specs of the SoC, but they’ve developed the chip to an extent where they can start marketing it to potential partners.
The companying is positioning the XR1 as a chip that will be able to drive headsets up to 4K resolution, which makes a lot of sense considering its video decoder can also handle up to 4Kp60 video. The initial examples of the headset have highlighted the chips 3DoF tracking but it can actually handle 6DoF tracking as well. The vendor will just need to include the additional sensors in their headset and then have the software setup so that it can handle all of that additional data.