With the start of Augmented Reality Expo 2018, newer versions of standalone AR and VR headsets are being showcased and made available to consumers on a larger scale. These Extended Reality headsets usually make use of Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 845 mobile platform, hence surging the prices of these headsets making them less affordable for the average consumer. To battle this, Qualcomm has launched the Snapdragon XR1, a new SoC to power standalone Extended Reality headsets.
What’s the need for Snapdragon XR1?
Qualcomm says that it sees two different emerging markets from AR/VR, one being the more premium segment where people are willing to shell out a good amount of money in order to experience these headsets (which Qualcomm is calling the “premium-quality sector”), and the second, a more budget-friendly audience, but with the expectations of encountering a similar experience as compared to the more premium headsets (which Qualcomm is calling the “high-quality sector”). Qualcomm wants to cater to the latter segment with the launch of the XR1, by providing a heightened immersion experience.
How’s Snapdragon XR1 different from Snapdragon 845?
The major technical difference between the XR1 and the 845 is that the former emphasizes the use of 3DoF, 360-degree viewing, and simpler controls like these. On the other hand, the Snapdragon 845 offers 6DoF, room-scale tracking and positioning, as well as hand-tracking and ultrasonic controller support which falls into the category of the premium-quality sector.
Qualcomm’s move to launch the XR1 comes at a similar time-frame as the launch of its higher mid-range mobile platform for smartphones, the Snapdragon 710. The 845 is the automatic option for OEMs if they’re building a flagship smartphone, but with the introduction of 710, manufacturers can now offer similar high-end features in smartphones priced lesser when compared to flagships, and also make fewer compromises and still offer a solid package at a much more affordable price point. This is exactly what Qualcomm aims to do with the XR1, but for the AR/VR market. Qualcomm claims better thermal efficiency and power consumption, improved interaction, AI benefits, improved audio quality, and support for Ultra HD on devices using the XR1 chip.
The XR1 has just been announced so it’s going to be a while till we see consumer devices running on the new platform. However, Qualcomm has announced a few companies they’re providing sample units to, including Meta, Pico, Vive, and Vuzix for testing purposes.