Thus far, the world of standalone virtual and augmented reality headsets have relied on recalibrated smartphone chips. The Vive Focus, for instance, runs on the Snapdragon 835 chip.
There's no need for that anymore, as Qualcomm has announced the XR1, a new platform specifically designed for augmented, virtual and mixed realities - a group of realities that Qualcomm refers to as extended reality (XR for short).
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The three pillars Qualcomm is selling for the XR1 are visuals, audio and interactivity. Also, each chip is built with on-board AI that can be used for power efficiency and for AR cameras to better identify objects. All of this will allow Qualcomm and its partners to deliver better standalone VR and AR for everyone. Largely because the XR1 is specifically developed to cater to what great AR and VR needs.
The XR1 supports 4K video at 60 frames per second, and the company says new hardware and software algorithms in the chip can reduce unwanted noise in snapshots, resulting in higher quality AR.
There's also dual-display support, 3D overlays, and Visual Inertial Odometry - that allows users to interact with augmented objects or move around in virtual worlds. Speaking of moving around, XR1 supports both 3DoF and 6DoF head and controller tracking. There are also embedded sensors that will allow for latency "well below" 20ms, which would allow for smooth VR and AR play.
As for audio, the XR1 uses a suite of Qualcomm audio technologies to support high-fidelity audio and always-on, always-listening voice assistance via Bluetooth. More importantly, 3D audio is fully supported. So you'll be able to pinpoint where the sound is coming from.
Qualcomm has already roped in several AR and VR manufacturers to utilize XR1 in next-generation headsets, including HTC Vive, Meta, Vuzix and Pico. Specifically, Vuzix said you can expect it to update its devices with the XR1 platform in late 2019 to early 2020.
This is a major step for standalone VR. Now, manufacturers have a go-to chip that can be used to more easily create high quality AR and VR. Because AR and VR have different needs than smartphones, using a smartphone chip to power a VR or AR headset is a lot like using the engine of a Prius to power a heavy duty truck. Here's hoping we get a whole lot of much better standalone VR and AR headsets.