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Qualcomm Introduces the Snapdragon XR1 Reference Design for Standalone AR and VR Headsets



The Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) markets have seen their ups and downs, but Qualcomm remains bluntly convinced that they are an untapped goldmine. Citing IDC's research, the company expects to install standalone headsets such as the HTC Vive Focus and Oculus Go to Top 186 million by 2023.

That's one of the reasons why the San Diego-based chipmaker joined two years ago Standalone has announced VR headset reference design based on its Snapdragon 820 system-on-chip, and in early 2018 unveiled an updated version unpacking the Snapdragon 845. At the Augmented Reality World 2018 Expo in Santa Clara today, Qualcomm picked up the wraps from the Incarnation platform, the Snapdragon XR1

platform (short for "Extended Reality 1") – but unlike previous reference designs, it's not just for VR.

"It's … designed specifically for the standalone VR and AR class [headset]" Hugo Swart, head of Qualcomm's XR Business Management, told VentureBeat during a pre-announcement meeting. "It's a demonstration of how much [we] believes in the VR and AR space, we have a good overview of where the market is and where it's going."

There are two reasons for Hugo's story for the Snapdragon XR1 platform: the high price of current AR / VR headsets and the unbelievable aftermarket accessories like Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View. About 45 percent of consumers today think that today's AR and VR devices are overpriced, according to market research firm Techanalysis, and 46 percent prefer standalone devices compared to smartphone-dependent alternatives.

"Some of the headsets are expensive and not that expensive to set up," he said, "and not everyone has the latest and greatest smartphone."

 Qualcomm XR1 Features

To address this market gap To conclude, the XR1 platform, in terms of its feature set, occupies a slightly lower level than Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 Xtended Reality (XR) platform and complements it rather than replacing it. Hiren Bhinde, XR Product Management Director, compared it to the difference between a "high-end" experience (XR1) and a "premium-quality" experience (the Snapdragon 845 platform).

"From a technical standpoint, we went back and looked at the [Snapdragon 845 VR] platform and said," Maybe the memory bandwidth is lower, and we should mitigate the capabilities of the GPU, "explained Bhinde." [XR1 devices] have the minimum criteria for Immersion. "

XR1 devices will not be as powerful as their high-end Snapdragon 845 counterparts, they only have six degrees of freedom (3DoF) instead of the six (6DoF) – they can roll, yaw and tilt Track a person's head, but not their position in 3D space – and they "They ship with 6DoF controllers instead of ultrasound and hand-tracking peripherals. XR1 headsets also do not support space tracking and positioning or eye tracking.

"[XR1 headsets] are designed for" leaning ", video-centric experiences like 360-degree 2D video, easy play and easy interactivity at a lower price," said Bhinde. "These are the experiences we seek with XR1."

  Qualcomm XR1 Comparison

Above: A comparison between the XR1 platform and Snapdragon 845-based headsets.

Source: Qualcomm

is a new Snapdragon chip designed specifically for the XR1 platform. The chip, which supports Qualcomm's existing Snapdragon XR software development kit (SDK), includes the Hexagon Vector processor (a machine-learning optimized chip) and cryo processors (based on the architecture of the UK semiconductor maker and Softbank subsidiary Arm Holdings). and a graphics processor unit (GPU) from Qualcomm's Adreno family.

The hardware delivers the goods. Qualcomm's Adreno GPU and Spectra ISP enable the XR1 platform to output resolutions up to 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution at 60 frames per second via one or two OLED or LCD displays, increasing the latency from motion to photon Minimize the time it takes for a camera to capture and render light and hardware and display it as AR content – up to 20 milliseconds or less. It can perform Visual Inertia Odometry (VIO), a technique that uses a combination of camera and motion sensor data to track the movement of the headset in 3D space. (It's how Apps developed on Apple's ARKit track movement around a room.) And it supports standard graphics APIs like OpenGL, OpenCL, and Vulkan.

Manufacturers choosing the XR1 platform will have Qualcomm's audio technologies in place, including Qualcomm's aptX audio compression algorithms and Aqstic, a collection of high-fidelity audio codecs, digital-to-analog converters (DACs), amplifiers and Software. Headliner features include immersive sound via a 3D audio SDK, active noise cancellation, speech recognition and natural language processing.

Finally, with the Hexagon Vector processor in tow and the ability to share workloads between the Adreno GPU and Kryo CPUs, XR1 supports the full range of artificial intelligence frameworks and tools. These include Qualcomm's Snapdragon Neural Processing SDK, Facebook's Caffe and Caffe2, Google's TensorFlow and TensorFlow Lite, and the Open Neural Network Exchange (ONNX)

 Qualcomm XR Hardware

Google researchers have recently shown the value of AI in AR / VR applications with an algorithm that adds 6DOF controller tracking capabilities to stand-alone headsets.

"[We’re] lays the foundation for machine learning algorithms [on XR1]," said Bhinde. "In VR [and] AR it is useful to predict where the wearer's head will move [so] you can store more energy on the device."

If everything goes to plan, it will not work long before the first XR1 devices hit the market. Qualcomm's first partner list includes Meta, an Enterprise AR headset OEM, along with Pico, Vuzix and HTC subsidiary Vive – more will follow in the coming months. "We work a lot with everyone in the industry, from OEMs to platform operators and technology partners [and] for component suppliers," Swart said.

"Our Vive Wave platform lays the foundation for the next generation of all-in-one VR with access to a curated storefront of VR applications for mobile-centric VR," said Rikard Steiber, SVP Virtual Reality at HTC, in a statement. "With Qualcomm's new XR1 chipset, we believe that both the AIO market and the Wave platform will grow."


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