Qualcomm has now unveiled the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1. This is the company's latest platform addition and was announced today to coincide with the start of Augmented World Expo (AWE) 2018. In fact, the Snapdragon XR1 has also been announced to coincide with the recent expansion of dedicated standalone augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets – as it's this type of headset that the XR1 is specifically designed to benefit. With the naming of this processor directly relating to its purpose as a mixed reality (or extended reality) dedicated chip.
If this sounds like what the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 platform is supposed to service, that is because, it is what the Snapdragon 845 is supposed to service. However Qualcomm explains that it now sees two sub-markets developing out of the standalone market, ones which primarily differ on the quality and the immersion of the experience. In other words, a high-quality sector and a premium-quality sector. While the Snapdragon 845 will continue to be pushed towards the premium side and powering the best standalone headsets that become available, the new Snapdragon XR1 will look to accommodate those devices that want to offer a heightened immersion experience, but not quite a premium one. To sum up some of the key differences, the XR1 emphasizes the use of 3DoF (it does also support 6DoF although that is not its intended purpose), 360-degree viewing, and more simpler controls. This is compared to 6DoF, room-scale tracking and positioning, as well as hand-tracking and ultrasonic controller support that's on offer with the premium-quality (Snapdragon 845) sector.
In description, this dual approach to high-end headsets is very reminiscent of what Qualcomm announced last week with the Snapdragon 710 mobile SoC. As again, while the Snapdragon 845 is positioned as the go-to option for premium smartphone OEMs, the Snapdragon 710 is meant to bring much of the same benefits to the tier just below the flagship marker – high-quality, but not premium. Therefore, in many respects, the Snapdragon XR1 can be understood as a Snapdragon 710-equivalent for the AR/VR markets. One which offers all the trappings most commonly associated with a premium product, such as better thermal efficiency and power consumption, improved interaction, artificial intelligence (AI) benefits, improved audio quality, and support for Ultra HD. As is usually the case with Qualcomm, the announcement of the new platform does not automatically correlate to the availability of the chip from the end user perspective. Instead, Qualcomm has confirmed it's already sampling out the Snapdragon XR1 and working with various companies to bring the platform to market soon. Some of those announced as already involved with the Snapdragon XR1 include Meta, Pico, Vive, and Vuzix.