QUALCOMM IS CLEARLY FED UP of rehashing its Snapdragon mobile processors into chips for augmented and virtual reality headsets (AR and VR) so it has created a chip dedicated to such devices.
The Snapdragon XR1 is the chipmaker's first slice of silicon designed for so-called 'mixed reality headsets'. It has been designed to deliver high-end audio and visual presentation as well as support headsets with three and six degrees of freedom when it comes to head tracking and controller capabilities.
The chipset, which rocks the usual ARM-based multi-core processor, a vector processor, graphics accelerator and Qualcomm's AI Engine, will support 4K video at a smooth 60 frames per second, as well as dual displays and 3D overlays. It will also play nicely with a variety of popular graphics APIs such as OpenGL and Vulkan.
The chip will use heterogeneous computing, which put simply is a way to assign tasks to different cores and processors of the chipset to ensure the best and most efficient performance.
The AI Engine, meanwhile, will help give mixed reality headsets sensors the ability to recognise objects and predict the movements a person will make in response to certain VR and AR situation, again to make the whole experience of mixed reality feel more seamless.
Audio tech like Qualcomm's 3D Audio Suite, Aqstic and aptX will take care of three-dimensional sounds to make mixed reality experiences seem more realistic even if you're viewing a bouncing, rainbow farting unicorn through a pair of chunky tech spectacles.
Another way Qualcomm will do this is through the use of Head Related Transfer Functions, which is a fancy way of synthesising binaural sound to trick a person's ears into thinking the sound is coming from a specific direction.
Qualcomm is bunging in its software development kit to make using the Snapdragon' XR1's hardware features an easier task for developers and to enable the straightforward use of wireless and Bluetooth capabilities.
Partners such as Vive, Pico and Vuzix are already onboard the Qualcomm bandwagon, so we can expect the chip to pop up in the next wave of VR headsets and mixed reality goggles from those firms.
"By integrating powerful visuals, high-fidelity audio, and rich interactive experiences, XR1 will help create a new era of high-quality, mainstream XR devices for consumers," said Alex Katouzian, general manager at Qualcomm's mobile business unit.
That could be the case if the Snapdragon XR1 forms an accessible hardware platform on which affordable but decent quality mixed reality devices can be built upon. But as it stands VR and AR still remains a niche proposition, albeit one that's growing in popularity. µ
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