This morning Qualcomm introduced its next-generation Snapdragon XR2 platform, powered by a powerful new chip set (not a single chip), the Snapdragon 865. The company’s prior generation, the 835/845 Snapdragon, powers every major XR device on the market (except Magic Leap’s), including the Microsoft HoloLens and Facebook’s Oculus Quest. Those devices will be underpowered compared to the new Snapdragon XR2 powered devices, which will allow 5G under the hood to power AI innovations, and enables many more powerful cameras and sensors.
The XR2 Platform will deliver 2x the CPU and GPU performance, 4x more video bandwidth, and 6x higher resolution to the 835 class processors, which are so 2018. The new Platform supports seven (not typo) concurrent cameras and a dedicated computer vision processor. Importantly, the XR2 enables low latency camera pass-through unlock true MR, which allow users to see, interact and create a hybrid of the virtual and real world while wearing a VR device. The significance of this, following Apple’s non-announcement announcement of its own pass-through approach, cannot be understated: consumers will have one, fully occluded XR device; the camera will be your eyes; it will do both AR and VR.
For enterprise, a see-through device, which allows users to see their hands and maintain their peripheral vision, is essential, but for consumers, the most powerful approach will be to do all that reality combination in an untethered free roaming 5G-enabled headset.
The Snapdragon XR2 Platform (and the 865 chip that makes it all work) takes a leap in core GPU processing by supporting 1.5x the pixel rate and 3x the texel rate for efficient, high graphics rendering1. Custom silicon was developed for sharp displays with low latencies. XR specific features include foveated rendering, eye tracking and enhanced variable rate shading, while minimizing power consumption. The display panel offers up to 3K by 3K resolution per eye at 90 frames per second (fps) and supports 8K 360 degree videos at 60 fps for photorealistic visuals.
“Snapdragon is the platform for 5G,” said Christian Amon, President of Qualcomm, on December 4th, at the Snapdragon Tech Summit, an invitation-only annual event for analysts and journalists. The Snapdragon XR2 introduces support for seven (7) concurrent cameras and a custom computer vision processor. Multiple concurrent cameras enable real-time tracking of the head, lips and eyes together with 26-point skeletal hand tracking. Computer vision provides highly efficient scene understanding and 3D reconstruction. This is what we meant by Convergence, which describes the disruptive power of technologies that augment one another maturing together.
In an augmented or virtual world, spatial sound is table stakes, and voice will be a critical interface. Spatial sound has not been ignored by Qualcomm. The Snadragon platform audio is an always-on, low power support hardware with features like voice activation and context detection which help keep users’ head in the digital world while having an ear in the real world.
The company demoed how XR can using split processing between a device and edge cloud at EWTS in Dallas in September. This too has been an important consideration in the design of the new XR2 system and will be incredibly important to location-based enterprise XR. Multiple OEMs are committed to Snapdragon XR2 Platform and other customers are in various stages of prototyping and evaluation.
“By the end of 2020,” predicted Amon, there will be 200 million 5G subscribers around the world. “It’s really going to be a much faster transition than what we’ve seen in prior generations of wireless.”