After supporting the world’s first wave of Android Wear smartwatches by adapting Snapdragon chips initially used on smartphones, semiconductor giant Qualcomm eventually designed tiny, energy-efficient processors specifically for wearable devices.
The same seems to be the case for standalone VR headsets, as the trailblazing Oculus Go and HTC Vive Focus pack Snapdragon 821 and 835 processing power, while next-gen “mainstream” HMDs will get their very own Snapdragon XR1 platform.
This is the “world’s first dedicated XR platform”, and in case you’re wondering, XR stands for “Extended Reality”, which is yet another marketing term intended to replace and lump together VR (Virtual Reality), AR (Augmented Reality) and MR (Mixed Reality).
Confusing tech industry jargon aside, what’s important to note is Qualcomm aims to “create a new era of high-quality, mainstream XR devices for consumers” based on the Snapdragon XR1 “platform.”
“Mainstream” essentially means affordable in this context, so no, you shouldn’t expect any high-end Oculus Rift or HTC Vive sequels to be powered by the XR1 chip. Instead, a number of OEMs, including Meta, Vive, Vuzix and Pico, have already started work on mid-range, independent devices like the aforementioned Oculus Go and HTC Vive Focus.
These will be able to offer either three- or six-degrees of freedom head tracking, depending on the choice of each individual headset manufacturer, with UltraHD 4K video resolution at 30 frames per second also supported by default for full immersion in your favorite movies, programs and sports.
On the visual technology front, the XR1 platform provides a range of display options with hardware accelerated composition, dual-display support, 3D overlays and OpenGL, OpenCL and Vulkan support, while “high-fidelity audio experiences” and “always-on, always-listening” voice assistance are enabled by proprietary Qualcomm 3D Audio Suite, Aqstic Audio, and aptX Audio tech.
To be honest, we don’t know exactly what all that stuff does, but we’re certainly excited to find out once those Meta, Vive, Vuzix and Pico HMDs are commercially released. Unfortunately, Qualcomm is not ready to share any ETAs just yet.