Qualcomm has today announced its latest extended reality platform for AR, VR, and MR, the Snapdragon XR2, which the company calls the ‘world’s first 5G-supported extended reality (XR) platform.’ However, this is not the first time that the company has introduced a dedicated platform for extended reality. Last year it announced the first series of its extended reality platform, the XR1 (now branded as XR), and the XR2 builds upon it with 5G connectivity and performance improvements.
The new Snapdragon XR2 platform holds several advantages over the Snapdragon XR1. To begin with, the biggest differentiating feature with XR2 is the introduction of 5G connectivity, which is the fastest connectivity solution today. Apart from this, the new platform claims to deliver 2x CPU and GPU performance, 4x more video bandwidth, 6x higher resolution, and 11x AI improvement. Qualcomm says it is the world’s first XR platform to support seven concurrent cameras and a dedicated computer vision processor. In addition to these changes, the new platform also enables enable low latency camera pass-through to unlock true MR potential, which would allow users to see, interact, and create a hybrid of the virtual and real world. Further, to deliver a truly immersive XR experience, the platform offers customized visuals, interactivity, and audio technologies that leverage the power of AI and 5G to deliver better performance.
Qualcomm Snapdragon XR 2 Features
1. AI & 5G
Qualcomm is pushing its newest lineup of SoCs to utilize the potential of AI and 5G, and the XR2 is no different. As already mentioned, the XR2 is the world’s first extended reality platform to include 5G connectivity, which enables it to offer an improved extended reality experience with low latency and ultra-fast data speeds. Besides 5G, Qualcomm says that the use of AI allows it to improve some of the XR2 features like visuals, interactivity, and audio to improve the overall extended reality experience.
Qualcomm acknowledges that to offer a seamless and immersive extended reality experience, one of the crucial steps is to minimize the visual gap between the real and virtual worlds. To solve this, the new XR2 platform offers up to 1.5x the pixel rate and 3x the texel rate for efficient, high graphics rendering, which, in turn, aid with better graphics performance. In addition to this, a few XR2 specific features like foveated rendering (with eye-tracking and enhanced variable-rate shading) help in rendering heavy workloads, while keeping the power consumption low.
Besides the visual experience, another deterring aspect that provides an immersive AR and VR experience is the audio. The XR2 platform includes a custom-built always-on, low power Qualcomm Hexagon DSP, which supports some of the hardware-accelerated features such as voice activation and context detection that provide an immersive audio experience to the users. Furthermore, Qualcomm says the platform offers rich audio experience with 3D spatial sound and crystal-clear voice interactions.
To aid with offering an immersive and interactive experience, the XR2 comes with support for seven concurrent cameras and a custom computer vision processor. With multiple cameras in place, it makes it easier to enable real-time and accurate tracking of the head, eyes, and other facial aspects, along with 26-point skeletal hand tracking. In addition to this, computer vision also provides efficient scene understanding and 3D reconstruction, which combines together with other features to offer an interactive experience.
The Snapdragon XR2 platform can be expected to power upcoming AR and VR devices sometime next year. Niantic Labs, creator of the popular Pokemon Go game has announced that it will be collaborating with Qualcomm on a reference design that will use the newly-announced Snapdragon XR2 platform. As of now, Qualcomm says that ‘Multiple OEMs are committed to commercializing devices with the Snapdragon XR2 Platform and other customers are in various stages of prototyping and evaluation.‘ So we might have to wait for further updates next year.
Disclosure: The Editor of this blog is in Maui, Hawaii, on Qualcomm’s invitation.