Qualcomm unveils next-gen MR, VR devices based on Snapdragon platform

New premium-tier extended reality platform is said to deliver 50% higher sustained power and 30% improved thermal performance to enable more immersive metaverse experiences in smaller, lighter form factors

Just as Meta was announcing products, services and partnerships that it hopes will build the basis of the brave new immersive world of the future, wireless technology giant Qualcomm has announced its latest premium-tier extended reality (XR) platform, Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 1, which it says will fuel the next generation of mixed and virtual reality (MR and VR) devices, boasting new power and thermal improvements and that are attributed with allowing OEMs to deliver richer metaverse experiences packed into a lighter form factor.

With a new platform configuration enabling better heat dissipation, Qualcomm says “significant” performance headroom has been created to achieve 50% higher sustained power and 30% improved thermal performance. This, says the company, allows more concurrent multimedia and perception technologies to be utilised simultaneously, enabling full-sensory interactions, such as creating life-like human expressions in the metaverse, without compromising form factor.

In terms of mixed reality experiences, the Snapdragon XR2+ platform introduces a new image processing pipeline which Qualcomm has measured as achieving less than 10ms latency to unlock superior full-colour video pass-through MR experiences. The platform enables concurrent perception technologies, including head, hand and controller tracking, 3D reconstruction, as well as low-latency video pass-through.​

Seven concurrent cameras allow the physical and virtual worlds to blend into an all-encompassing MR experience through video pass-through alongside precise motion tracking and automatic room mapping. Qualcomm also claims that the platform’s high pixel density brings PC-quality virtual landscapes to life, while providing support for multiple sensors and cameras that give nuanced facial expressions to more realistic avatars.

Multiple OEMs have committed to commercialising devices powered by Snapdragon XR2+ and these will be announced by the end of 2022.

The announcement of supporting the metaverse comes after Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon gave a keynote at IFA 2022 noting that technology performance changes in the Snapdragon were seen as the bedrock in supporting applications such as augmented and mixed reality, which he said would be the next computing platform, eventually growing to be as powerful and as big as the smartphone market.

Aiming to tap into the growth opportunity in this area, Amon announced that Qualcomm had entered into a multi-year strategic partnership with Meta to develop premium and custom experiences with custom products that will leverage Snapdragon and XR.

The announcement came just after Meta revealed it was striking a partnership with Microsoft to deliver immersive experiences for the future of the workplace. The companies said that as firms and employees settle into new work norms post-pandemic, they are living through a once-in-a-lifetime shift in work patterns.

With this in mind, Microsoft said it was announcing several ways in which it was partnering with Meta to provide customers with more choice and security as they venture into the metaverse. The first part of this was bringing Mesh for Microsoft Teams to Meta Quest devices. This is designed to help people gather virtually in the place where work happens on any device, including smartphones, laptops and mixed-reality headsets. Mesh for Teams with Meta Quest Pro and Meta Quest 2 devices will enable people to connect and collaborate as though they are together in person.

Bola Rotibi, chief of enterprise research at CCS Insight, commented: “This is hugely significant given how pervasive Microsoft products are in the workplace. We expect this will be a catalyst for many companies to dip a toe in the water on how virtual and augmented reality technology can be used in everyday business.

“These announcements underline Mark Zuckerberg’s determination to make the metaverse a credible domain for the enterprise. It’s an important next step, given most of the population automatically associate virtual reality with gaming and consumer applications.”

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