Qualcomm on Tuesday announced the launch of a new chip explicitly designed for standalone augmented reality and virtual reality devices: the Snapdragon XR1. The chipmaking giant debuted the tech ahead of this week’s Augmented World Expo in Santa Clara, California.
The company is staying tight-lipped on technical details about the new SoC for the time being.
That said, Qualcomm is slotting the XR1 below its existing Snapdragon 845—the chip powering most of the year’s highest-end smartphones—in terms of memory bandwidth and GPU power. It is primarily aiming XR1 devices at “lean back” experiences like 360-degree video viewing, at least to start.
Even still, the company says the XR1 can output video up to 4K resolution at 60 frames per second, that it’ll keep motion-to-photon latency “well below” 20 milliseconds (so as to prevent nausea and motion sickness), and that it can handle both 3DoF and 6DoF tracking for headsets and accompanying controllers if needed. (Devices with the latter allow users to replicate a fuller range of movement in a virtual space.) Qualcomm is talking up the chip’s power management and 3D-audio abilities and its support for always-on voice assistance as well.
Most of Qualcomm’s announcement is marketing fluff, but it does highlight the company’s belief that there’s plenty of growth left in AR and VR. Thus far, the hype surrounding the tech hasn’t translated to widespread consumer adoption. But standalone headsets like the Oculus Go suggest the tech is maturing and that the cost of a halfway decent VR experience is gradually coming down. (Mainstream adoption of AR, meanwhile, has mostly been confined to barebones uses like Snapchat filters and .)
The Oculus Go, like many other standalone headsets, already relies on a Qualcomm chip (the Snapdragon 821). But the XR1 appears to be Qualcomm’s way of giving manufacturers a go-to chip for AR and VR devices, one that (hopefully) provides enough power to produce quality AR/VR—but only that. That, ideally, will help keep costs down and create a little more order in a market that has been a bit muddled.
Qualcomm says that HTC Vive is already working with the XR1, as are less-prominent headset makers Vuzix, Meta, and Pico. Qualcomm expects the first XR1-using devices to arrive at the end of this year or in early 2019.