Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon chip will take VR, AR to the next level

Qualcomm today introduced the world’s first platform dedicated to extended reality (XR) with the launch of its Snapdragon XR1 chip and headset design. As previously reported, XR is an umbrella term used to group virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality hardware and experiences. Companies already lined up to use the platform include Meta, HTC’s Vive brand, Vuzix, and Pico.  

Until now, mobile VR and AR applications relied on a chip optimized for smartphones. The takeaway from Qualcomm’s announcement is that despite the Snapdragon brand, the XR1 chip wasn’t designed for smartphones and tablets. Instead, it’s optimized for extended reality experiences including augmented reality applications backed by artificial intelligence. 

Outside packing ARM-based CPU cores and a GPU unit, the new chip includes an A.I. engine for on-device processing. That means the resulting headset won’t require a tethered connection to a PC, nor will it need the cloud to process A.I.-based functions. Given extended reality experiences powered by A.I. require loads of processing, Qualcomm tuned the chip for high performance and power efficiency to prevent the parent device from quickly gobbling up the battery’s charge.

“Other key features include an advanced XR software service layer, machine learning, the Snapdragon XR Software Development Kit (SDK) and Qualcomm Technologies connectivity and security technologies,” Qualcomm says.

qualcomm snapdragon xr1 first dedicated ar vr platform chip flat view image

The new platform can support 4K video at 60 frames per second, and the latest graphics APIs such as Vulkan, OpenGL, and OpenCL thanks to the integrated Spectra Image Signal Processor. It also supports visual-inertial odometry, a technology that allows you to interact with augmented reality objects and freely move around in the virtual world without cables. 

Manufacturers creating headsets based on the XR1 chip can implement three or six degrees of freedom head tracking. For example, six degrees of freedom means you can move up, down, left, right, forward and backward without the need for a tethered PC or external sensors. Three degrees is what you typically see on smartphone-based headsets that support head rolling (pivot up and down), pitching (look up and down), and yawing (look left and right). 

Qualcomm put a lot of work into the audio aspect, too. The platform relies on the company’s 3D Audio Suite, Aqstic Audio, and AptX Audio for not only high-quality sound but to provide voice assistance that is always an and always listening. Meanwhile, head-related transfer functions will give audio a 3D-like experience, locking down sound sources to specific points in virtual and real-world spaces no matter where you’re facing. 

In a separate announcement, Vuzix said its next-generation Blade smart glasses will be based on the Snapdragon XR1 platform. The combination of Qualcomm’s platform and Vuzix’s “proprietary waveguides and display engines” will create smaller, more fashionable devices. The Snapdragon XR1 will also be used in the next Vuzin M-Series smart glasses for the enterprise.

Products produced by Vuzix aren’t expected to appear until sometime in 2019. HTC, Pico, and Meta did not make any official announcements at the time of this publication.

Computing

An inside look at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8cx, a revolutionary laptop processor

Six years after Microsoft’s failed foray into ARM computing with Windows RT, its second effort with Always-Connected PC is now showing early signs of success. Microsoft partner Qualcomm told us how the Snapdragon 8cx might revolutionize…
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Mobile

Protect your new iPhone with one of our favorite iPhone XR cases

Apple's new iPhone range is the toast of 2018, with beautiful style and more power than you can shake a stick at. But beauty can often be fragile -- keep the damage to a minimum with the best iPhone XR cases.
Computing

Hololens 2 could give the Always Connected PC a new, ‘aggressive’ form

Microsoft is said to be leaning on Qualcomm to power its Hololens 2 headset. Instead of Intel CPUs, the next Hololens could use a Snapdragon 850 processor, allowing it to benefit from the always-connected features.
Computing

Windows 10 user activity logs are sent to Microsoft despite users opting out

Windows 10 Privacy settings may not be enough to stop PCs from releasing user activity data to Microsoft. Users discovered that opting out of having their data sent to Microsoft does little to prevent it from being released.
Computing

Intel's discrete graphics will be called 'Xe,' IGP gets Adapative Sync next year

Intel has officially dubbed its discrete graphics product Intel Xe, and the company also provided details about its Gen11 IGP. The latter will include adaptive sync support and will arrive in 2019.
Computing

Intel answers Qualcomm's new PC processors by pairing Core and Atom in 'Foveros'

Intel has announced a new packaging technology called 'Foveros' that makes it easier for the company to place multiple chips together on one package. That includes chips based on different Intel architectures, like Core and Atom.
Computing

Razer’s classic DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse drops to $40 on Amazon

If you're looking to pick up a new gaming mouse for the holidays, Amazon has you covered with this great deal on the classic Razer DeathAdder Elite gaming mouse with customizable buttons, RGB lighting, and a 16,000 DPI optical sensor.
Computing

Intel's dedicated GPU is not far off -- here's what we know

Did you hear? Intel is working on a dedicated graphics card. It's called Arctic Sound and though we don't know a lot about it, we know that Intel has some ex-AMD Radeon graphics engineers developing it.
Computing

Firefox 64 helps keep your numerous tabs under control

Mozilla officially launched Firefox 64 by placing new features into the laps of its users including new tab management abilities, intelligent suggestions, and a task manager for keeping Firefox's power consumption under control.
Computing

Here's our guide to how to charge your laptop using a USB-C cable

Charging via USB-C is a great way to power up your laptop. It only takes one cable and you can use the same one for data as well as power -- perfect for new devices with limited port options.
Computing

Apple MacBook Air vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 6

The MacBook Air was updated with more contemporary components and a more modern design, but is that enough to compete with standouts like Microsoft's Surface Pro 6 detachable tablet?
Computing

Installing fonts in Windows 10 is quick and easy -- just follow these steps

Want to know how to install fonts in Windows 10? Here's our guide on two easy ways to get the job done, no matter how many you want to add to your existing catalog, plus instructions for deleting fonts.
Computing

Email take-backsies! Gmail's unsend feature is one of its best

Everyone has sent a message they wish they could take back. How great would it be if you could undo that impulsive email? If you're a Gmail user, you can. Here's how to recall an email in Gmail.