Qualcomm is looking to drive forward the development of AR and VR hardware with a powerful new XR reference design. The company designed the recently announced hardware in collaboration with Goertek. Specifically, its partner built the headset on Qualcomm's Snapdragon XR2 5G platform, with the goal of assisting OEMs to develop AR, VR and MR devices for both consumers and enterprises in 2020.
Dubbed the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Platform Reference Design, this is not a consumer product. It's intended to act more like a white label product, to a certain extent.
More directly, it's a design that Qualcomm expects third-parties to copy. Those companies could copy it outright or simply reference its build to develop their own, more finely-tuned solutions. Those may or may not have all of the same technology inside or features. Instead, they'd be individually built out to serve whatever purpose the given OEM has in mind.
Qualcomm's new reference AR, VR design is its highest-tech solution to date
The Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 platform at the center of the new reference design follows on the company's XR1 platform. The new design in question is technically the company's fourth-generation reference design for VR, MR, and AR. So it shouldn't be too surprising that it's far more powerful than previous generations.
Qualcomm claims that, compared to its present Snapdragon XR platform, the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Platform Reference Design delivers two-times the CPU and GPU performance. That's on top of four-times more video bandwidth, six-times higher resolution, and eleven-times improvements to AI.
Aside from the improvements internally, the design supports as many as seven cameras. That's four cameras on the outside with two RGB cameras designated for MR and two more for head-tracking and depth mapping. A fifth camera is also allowed for facial and lip tracking or controller tracking.
Internally, there are two cameras for individually tracking eye movement. The embedded eye-tracking features compatibility with Tobii Spotlight Technology. That allows for foveated rendering via the up to 2K-by-2K resolution LCD panels.
Other features included are an IR emitter for hand and head tracking with simultaneous localization and mapping. That stacks on top of 3D audio and voice command support as well as electromagnetic tracking for low-latency 6DoF controller and peripheral tracking. That tracking means that no line-of-sight restrictions exist with those latter features.
Finally, the headset is 5G enabled via the Snapdragon X55 5G Modem with support for mmWave and sub-6.0GHz networks and dual-mode 5G networking.
When will this arrive and when will products release based on the design
Qualcomm says that its new AR, VR design is expected to be "available in the coming months" for select partners. As noted above, this is not a consumer-ready device that will become available at retail.
Now, Qualcomm's intent is to encourage new virtual, augmented, and mixed reality headsets from third-party manufacturers for this year. That's expressly highlighted in its announcement.
That goal should be achievable since most of the groundwork has been laid out by the reference design. So developers don't need to build the solution from scratch. But that doesn't necessarily mean that new headsets based on the design in 2020. It will ultimately be down to individual OEMs to determine when final products are announced or released.