Qualcomm's VR developer kit specs blow Vive and Rift out of the water

qualcomm snapdragon 835 vrdk snapdragonvr03
Alongside its debut of the Snapdragon 835 central and graphics processor, Qualcomm has announced a new virtual reality headset developer kit, which has some very impressive specifications and abilities. Not only does it offer higher resolution than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, it features wireless, inside-out positional tracking, eye tracking, and hand tracking.

To date, the most impressive mobile virtual reality headset we’ve gotten our hands on is the Samsung Gear VR. It’s a great piece of equipment, but lacks a lot of the features that can be found on higher-end, PC-based VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. That’s not the case with Qualcomm’s dev kit though, which in many ways leapfrogs its competitors to give us a glimpse of the future.

The Qualcomm VRDK comes with a single 2,560 x 1,440 display, split across both eyes and paired up the Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM and 64GB of onboard flash memory. It also supports Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB 3.1 Type-C connections and has a built-in trackpad for user inputs.

However, it’s the sensor set-up which is so impressive on the Qualcomm head-mounted display (HMD). It features a pair of front-mounted, monochromatic, one-megapixel cameras with fisheye lenses, which give the headset inside-out tracking. That is, in conjunction with the onboard gyroscope and accelerometer, it can tell where you are in the real world and translate your six degrees of motion into the virtual equivalent.

Taking things a step further, Qualcomm also announced that it had partnered with Leap Motion to integrate its hand-tracking technology into the VRDK. That means that users will be able to see and utilize their hands in VR games and experiences. While it lacks the inputs and tactile feedback of motion controllers, Leap trackers have proved to be an affordable way to add hand-interaction in digital experiences (thanks AndroidCentral).

Qualcomm’s VRDK is capable of tracking your eyes, too, using a pair of monochromatic shutter cameras on the inside of the headset. They let the software adjust what you see based on where you’re looking, which in turn makes foveated rendering possible. Although still a fledgling technology, it has the potential to make massive savings on required power for certain games and experience, which should enable higher-end visuals on the mobile platform.

All of this is backed up by Qualcomm’s own software developer kit, which gives software makers deep access to the CPU, GPU, and power and performance management, making it easier to achieve stable frame rates and comfort for the VR user.

At this point, the only feature holding back Qualcomm’s developer kit from making the Vive and Rift look obsolete is its reliance on the on-board Snapdragon processor. While powerful in its own right, it’s unlikely to be anywhere near as capable as a high-end gaming PC, and so it can’t hope to deliver the same kind of visual experience as PC-based virtual reality.

Everything else though is a generational leap ahead of the mainstream VR headsets revealed in April 2016, and suggests that 2017 and beyond is going to see huge leaps in the functionality and quality of virtual reality hardware.

Unfortunately for those looking for a release date, Qualcomm isn’t planning on selling this developer kit to the public. It’s going out to software developers and hardware partners, the latter of whom will use it as a base to build their own designs upon. The headsets will start shipping out to partners in the second quarter of this year, though visitors to the Games Developer Conference and Mobile World Conference shows will get to see a demonstration of the technology later this month.

Computing

Nvidia’s new GPUs look amazing, but that doesn’t mean you should buy one

Nvidia's GeForce 2080 is a powerful graphics card that supports ray tracing to deliver real-time cinematic renderings of shadows, light, and reflection in games, but unless you were already planning on upgrading, you'll probably want to…
Computing

HTC breaks down VR barriers by bringing Oculus Rift titles to Viveport

HTC's Viveport store and subscription service will be opened to Oculus Rift users in September this year, letting them buy titles directly and take advantage of the monthly game-delivery service.
Computing

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 850 chip appears in benchmarks with improved performance

A benchmark for Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 850 processor show a less-than-stellar increase in multi-core performance over the previous 835 chip. Introduced in June, the Snapdragon 850 promises up to 30 percent better performance.
Computing

Apple AR glasses will launch in 2020, says respected industry analyst

Apple AR glasses may be closer to reality than we thought. Here is everything we know so far about the augmented reality system, including the rumored specifications of Apple's Project Mirrorshades.
Computing

Reality shines into your ‘Minecraft’ escape via Windows Mixed Reality Flashlight

What’s great about VR is that you can get the full building experience in Minecraft. The drawback is that you don’t have visual access to the real world without lifting or removing the headset. Microsoft has a fix for Windows.
Photography

Adobe’s next big software secret? An augmented reality tool called Project Aero

Itching to create an augmented reality object? Adobe will soon have software to help. Adobe recently teased Project Aero, an upcoming software that helps design AR objects, including support for Apple's ARKit.
Virtual Reality

HTC says ‘it takes time to launch a new technology,’ claims lead in VR revenue

HTC posted a response to a Digital Trends editorial charting VR headset sales on Amazon. The company said "it takes time to launch a new technology," and posted data showing it makes the most revenue among its peers.
Virtual Reality

Daydream VR users can browse with Google Chrome in virtual space

Tired of browsing the internet in boring regular reality? If you're a Daydream VR user, you no longer have to, as Google has just announced the ability to use Chrome from within your Daydream VR headset.
Computing

Magic Leap’s augmented reality interface floats wherever you want it

New screenshots of a potential user interface for the Magic Leap augmented reality headset give us a firmer grasp of what the AR world inside the goggles might actually look like during day-to-day use.
Mobile

Google Home too boring? You want Gatebox’s cute virtual character in your life

Want to share your life with a virtual character? Then your dream is closer to reality thanks to Gatebox. It will control your smart home, and the character that lives inside the Gatebox can recognize and interact with you.
Deals

The Google Daydream View, one of the best VR headsets, is now on sale for $30

If you own a compatible smartphone, the Google Daydream View is one of the best vVR headsets money can buy. If you've been looking to dip your toes into the world of VR, Verizon has slashed the price of the headset down to just $30.
Emerging Tech

IrisVision uses VR to help people with fading eyesight to see again

A smartphone-based VR system can now help people with severe macular degeneration see better. While it doesn’t cure blindness, it does enable users with this vision disorder to carry out tasks they would otherwise find impossible.
Mobile

Facebook Messenger now includes AR games you can play with your friends

If sending messages wasn't already enough with Facebook Messenger, users can now challenge friends to augmented reality games. With the new feature, you can play with up to six people at a time from anywhere in the world.
Photography

Google enables virtual tour creation via Street View or a smartphone

Google wants anyone to be able to create a virtual tour -- Google Tour Creator is an online program for creating virtual tours with multiple points of interest. The program is designed to make advanced tours easy to create.