Qualcomm and Niantic to partner on a next-gen augmented reality headset

Qualcomm and Niantic announced a multi-year partnership aimed at bringing augmented reality devices to the public in the next few years. Details about the partnership have yet to be revealed — but it could bring games like Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite to a much more immersive environment through augmented reality glasses.

The announcement came at the Snapdragon Summit alongside the launch of the new Qualcomm XR2 5G augmented reality platform, which is meant to power a new generation of augmented reality glasses that are less bulky and more powerful than ever before. Notably, Qualcomm suggests that the new chipset will allow for lightweight glasses that are tethered to a module that can fit in the user’s pocket.

Niantic’s products will likely incorporate the XR2 platform and will end up being a reference design that mixes hardware, software, and cloud computing. It’s unclear if the two will move beyond the reference design phase and launch a consumer product.

The XR2, in general, offers a number of features we haven’t seen before. Notably, it supports two 3K displays — or one for each eye — at up to 90 frames per second. Not only that, but the platform also supports 5G connectivity, which is a big part of how Qualcomm expects augmented reality to work. Thanks to 5G, augmented reality devices will be able to deliver content almost instantaneously while also allowing for AR video chatting, gaming, and more. Considering the rise of cloud gaming and cloud processing, augmented reality devices don’t necessarily need to be ultra-powerful; processing things in the cloud and streaming content straight to the glasses enables cheaper and more varied devices.

It is likely partners will adopt the Qualcomm XR2 platform over the next year or so, while the original XR1 chip remains on the market. According to Qualcomm, the XR2 will power next-generation experiences, while the XR1 targets current mainstream users.

It will be interesting to see exactly how Niantic and Qualcomm’s partnership ends up manifesting. Niantic has dabbled in hardware with accessories for its games, but it has yet to launch a major hardware product. Niantic makes sense as a partner — the company has been a major player in phone-based AR since it launched Pokémon Go.

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