Qualcomm Unveils Reference Design For VR Headset Powered by Snapdragon 845

Angelica Greene
February 22, 2018

The era of cheaper, standalone mobile virtual reality headsets is nearly here, as VR makers preparing to release less costly displays based on mobile technology. Qualcomm Technologies has released a reference design for upcoming headsets.

Right now, VR hardware is expensive. Samsung had their VR headset that worked with Galaxy S and Note devices, and Google brought the first wave in with Cardboard, Daydream, and so on. "The performance and flexibility of our solutions have directly supported the success of numerous most iconic headsets and headphones from leading consumer electronics brands", said Anthony Murray, senior vice president and general manager, voice & music, Qualcomm Technologies International, Ltd. Qualcomm's VR/AR platform will be targeted at partner projects such as the Facebook Oculus Go headset and the HTC Vive Focus (which is selling in China).

Although we first heard about the Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform in December, seeing the reference design gives us a glimpse of what to expect in the next generation of mobile VR headsets.

Elsewhere, the Snapdragon 845-based Mobile VR platform boasts 30 percent greater power efficiency and 30 percent greater graphics performance than the Snapdragon 835 version.

The new TrueWireless technology allows earbuds to switch automatically between primary (receiving data from the phone and transmitting to the other bud) and secondary (receiving data from the other bud) roles in order to balance power consumption and increase battery life. Foveated rendering will be included in the specs for the reference design and will allow a pair of cameras to track where your eyes are looking and will adjust the resolution to lighten the load on the graphics processing.

A surprise inclusion on the system is the addition of eye-tracking, styled for the sake of utilizing a technology that focuses high-resolution graphics on the center of your vision to account for the biology of how your eyes work. These features are now set to include "foveated rendering" (VR eye tracking) and support for room-scale VR experiences. That means hardware and software can take advantage of full six-degrees-of-freedom tracking for head movements as well as understand the users' orientation in a room.

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Such tracking is important not just for VR experiences but also for augmented reality applications.

The software-based components of Qualcomm's new AI engine include the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine which is a software framework created to make it easy for developers to choose the optimal Snapdragon core for the user experience they wish to deliver. The VR HMD market is a little bit slower to the punch. Although the AR and VR ecosystem has seen slow growth, held back somewhat by limited content, there are good reasons to believe 2018 will see substantial mainstream adoption. "The 845 chip for AR and VR is the next step". With VR, they're going to be on the cutting edge. "Standalone VR has a natural position between mobile VR and tethered VR, but it should push closer to the latter if it hopes to succeed as a new market segment".

XR, by the way, is a term coined by Qualcomm to "encapsulate AR, VR, and everything in between".

While Broadcast Audio will be immediately available on the Snapdragon 845, developers will be able to add the audio feature "post-scale on many products", according to Qualcomm.

Recognising this, they've launched over 20 XR devices between standalone HMDs and XR-capable smartphones with customers. Unlike many online publications, we don't have a paywall or run banner advertising, because we want to keep our journalism open, without influence or the need to chase traffic.

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