3 min read

Qualcomm Inc announced a new chipset namely Snapdragon XR1, its first dedicated Extended Reality (XR) platform, to power standalone virtual reality ( VR) and augmented reality ( AR) headsets. This is Qualcomm’s attempt to expand its business beyond the realms of smartphones.

The newly dedicated chipset got introduced at the Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, California today.

The AR/ VR industry seems to have developed quite an interest in building standalone headsets recently. With standalone headsets such as Facebook’s Oculus Go and Google Daydream powered Lenovo Mirage Solo ruling the market, it is quite evident that the need for powerful chipsets to power these devices is only going to rise.


Snapdragon XR1, the first ever dedicated XR platform

Snapdragon XR1 Key Features:

Let’s look at the features that the makes the new chipset quite a powerful device to have for the standalone headsets:

  • XR1 is a system-on-a-chip (SoC). It has all the required electronic circuitry and smartphone parts on a single integrated circuit (IC).
  • The chip includes ARM-based CPU, a GPU, a vector processor and AI engine. AI engine will be able to optimize different AI functions such as object recognition and pose prediction on the device.
  • With this chip, Head-tracking interaction with headsets will also be possible.
  • It will also be capable of handling voice control.
  • It enables better user experience with high-quality visual and audio playback, as well as 3-DoF and 6-DoF interactive controls.
  •  The XR1 will provide support for 4K video at up to 60 frames per second, dual displays, 3D overlays and popular graphics such as APIs OpenGL, OpenCL, and Vulkan.
  • The chipset consists of Spectra image signal processor which will help reduce noise for clearer image quality.
  • Currently, Qualcomm’s audio technologies like Aqstic, 3D Audio Suite, and aptX are being used by XR1 which enables high-fi sound. It also uses Aqstic’s always-on and always-listening assistance.
  • There will also be a system, namely, Head Related Transfer Functions which will give an impression of sounds coming from a specific point in space. This will create a more realistic experience.
  • It will be able to delegate tasks to various different cores for more efficient performance by using heterogeneous computing.

Qualcomm’s goal with this chip design is an effort to make it easy for the AR/VR hardware manufacturers to design and build headsets which are cheap yet powerful and energy-efficient. The XR1 consists of an SDK which helps manufacturers to implement some of these features, as well as Bluetooth and WiFi capabilities.

The famous Oculus Go makes use of Qualcomm smartphone chip and Lenovo Mirage solo also uses Qualcomm phone processors but the battery life of the standalone headsets is not comparable to that of a smart-phone. Now, with chipsets being built specifically for these headsets, the battery life would improve considerably.

Qualcomm is not the only one working on manufacturing chips dedicated to headsets, others are aiming at similar technologies too.

Apple is working on developing its own chip for the AR glasses which will be on sale in early 2020. Nvidia and Intel are among the others that want to join the game.

It is also worth noting that Qualcomm is on the lookout for new sources of revenue as the smartphone industry is drying up and competition is continually increasing. Qualcomm will team up with other existing headset makers that plan to include the chip such as HTC ( Vive )Vuzix, Meta, and Pico.

With Qualcomm unveiling the new Snapdragon XR1 at the Augmented World Expo today, the AR/VR manufacturers across the globe have received an extra boost in terms of shipping hardware for the AR/VR space.

For more details on Snapdragon XR1, check out the official Qualcomm press release.

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