Home Computing Spatial Computing is a Qualcomm-sized Challenge

Spatial Computing is a Qualcomm-sized Challenge

by Amelia Ramiro

Qualcomm, the world’s fifth-largest semiconductor manufacturer, is positioning itself as a leading innovator in XR (Extended Reality) technology. At a recent press event in Vienna, the company emphasized its expertise in developing AR (Augmented Reality) headsets for everyday use, believing that the era of 5G, AI, and XR is dawning.

Qualcomm’s involvement in the XR space dates back to 2007 when it launched its first AR project. Since then, the company has made significant strides, including powering the Oculus Quest VR headset with its Snapdragon XR2 chip. Now, Qualcomm has announced the next generation of its XR chip, the Snapdragon XR2 Gen2, which powers Meta’s newly released Quest 3 VR/AR headset.

Compared to its predecessor, the XR2 Gen2 offers 2.5 times the peak performance and 50% better power efficiency. The chip supports high-resolution displays, performance technologies such as Foveated Rendering and Game Super Resolution, and can process data from up to ten cameras. Additionally, it supports the new Wi-Fi 7 standard.

While the industry is leaning towards augmented reality, developing AR headsets for everyday use remains a challenge. Manufacturers, including Apple, have yet to solve this challenge. As a result, XR hardware manufacturers are focusing on VR headsets with see-through or pass-through capabilities. These headsets merge the digital and real worlds, a crucial aspect of the metaverse concept.

Qualcomm recognizes its responsibility as an XR innovator and aims to make the future of AR possible by fitting the necessary technology into ordinary spectacle frames. The company’s first step in this direction is the Snapdragon AR1 Gen1 chip, designed for upcoming smart and AR headsets. This chip supports 3DOF (degrees of freedom), high-resolution displays, advanced AI features, and high-speed data transfer.

Qualcomm has made significant investments in acquiring startups to strengthen its position in computer vision and location-based AR. The company also provides Snapdragon Spaces, an open development environment that enables developers to create immersive experiences using hand and finger tracking, object recognition, and 3D mapping of the environment.

Qualcomm is not alone in believing in the disruptive potential of immersive technologies like VR and AR. These technologies have the potential to revolutionize information access, communication, and interaction. However, the lack of content and experimental software is currently a barrier to widespread adoption of VR. For AR, the challenge lies in overcoming physical limitations.

It remains to be seen how quickly developments in AR will progress and what the first real AR headsets suitable for everyday use with dedicated displays can achieve. Meta, formerly known as Facebook, plans to introduce such a headset for demo purposes next year, with a consumer version expected in 2027. In the meantime, Qualcomm aims to become a market leader in XR technology with further advancements in its chips, potentially releasing an XR3 or AR3 chip in the future.

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