Qualcomm Launches Next-Gen XR Chip to Challenge Apple’s Vision Pro Headset
Qualcomm unveiled its next-generation extended reality (XR) chipset, the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2, at CES 2024 this week. The new platform boasts significant performance and feature upgrades over its predecessor and is positioned to power upcoming virtual and augmented reality headsets from partners like Samsung and Google that will compete directly with Apple’s high-end Vision Pro headset expected later this year.
New Chip Brings 4K, Advanced AI to Usher in “Spatial Computing Era”
As flagship device makers like Apple, Meta, and others push immersive XR hardware into the mainstream consumer tech space, Qualcomm is providing the core processing power to fuel this anticipated boom.
The Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 processor enables headset and glasses makers to deliver more lifelike visuals, predictive interactions via on-device AI, and shared multi-user experiences. Key capabilities include:
- Up to 4K resolution and HDR rendering per eye at 90 frames per second
- 50% greater CPU and GPU performance over prior generation
- Dedicated computer vision hardware for advanced analytics and scene understanding
- Multi-camera concurrency for passthrough video and environment mapping
“We are proud to power the new experiences and capabilities that will usher in the Spatial Computing era`,” said Qualcomm President Cristiano Amon in the platform announcement. He positioned the chip to “empower our customers with the advanced technology they need to deliver next-generation devices for the metaverse.”
Industry observers noted the alignment in capabilities between Qualcomm’s latest XR platform and what Apple has promoted for its Vision Pro headset expected later this year. With estimated pricing around $3,000, Apple is targeting Vision Pro squarely at professionals and early tech adopter consumers.
By providing high-end XR hardware specifications to partners like Samsung and Google at scale, Qualcomm appears primed to accelerate mass consumer accessibility to rich augmented and virtual worlds.
Samsung, Google Headsets to Bring Mainstream XR Challenge
Alongside its new platform, Qualcomm confirmed Samsung and Google as lead partners looking to leverage the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 in their next-generation XR headsets:
“We have seen strong momentum across the Snapdragon XR portfolio, and we are announcing newcustomer wins today with Google and Samsung,” said Qualcomm’s Head of XR Hugo Swart at the CESkeynote.
Samsung is reportedly developing both a successor to its Odyssey VR headset from 2019 that will be more affordably priced for consumers, as well as a mixed reality glasses prototype for unveiling later this year.
Meanwhile, details remain sparse on Google’s XR hardware plans, however Qualcomm’s confirmation signals the platform could form the basis for the rumored follow-on to Google Glass.
Industry analysts see Qualcomm’s alignment with multiple XR device makers as an initiative to fuel Apple Vision Pro alternatives at more accessible consumer price points as a key next phase in the immersive computing landscape:
“This is about the wider Android ecosystem versus Apple`,” said Leo Gebbie, principal analyst at CCS Insights. “The experience needs to be good enough relative to Apple to make sure that Apple doesn’t run away with the high-end segment.”
XR Platform Leadership seen as High-Stakes in Spatial Computing Shift
As XR headsets gain traction following multiple prior false starts, Qualcomm is leaning aggressively into this anticipated tipping point for immersive technologies. Its platform progress places the company squarely among the leaders in enabling the next major computing paradigm – an accolade carrying significant industry clout and financial upside.
“We see this as a big opportunity on top of our strong position in mobile,” President Amon emphasized regarding Qualcomm’s XR priorities amid its better established smartphone processor dominance.
Meanwhile, early mover advantage across software ecosystems and app storefronts stands to confer related influence on public XR adoption akin to what propelled Android and iOS mobile OS dominance.
“XR app stores and runtimes are key opportunities in the 3D internet`,” wrote Goldman Sachs analysts after attending CES 2023 presentations. “We believe Apple and Meta will use software and services to defend their installed bases while Snap, Google, MSFT, and Epic will lean on cloud services and key apps to expand reach.”
In this evolving competitive landscape, Qualcomm’s agnostic alignment across multiple device makers risks trading some platform optimization upside for wider accessibility and reach across both consumer and enterprise XR experiences.
Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 Aims to Power “Spatial Computing for Billions”
Qualcomm’s breakthrough 7nm chipset for next-generation XR headsets aims to deliver the combination of performance, form factor, and cost crucial to expand these immersive technologies beyond gaming and tech enthusiasts towards mainstream acceptance and utility.
Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 Key Specs:
|>50% greater performance than prior gen
|>50% greater performance than prior gen
|New computer vision capabilities via dedicated processor
|Up to 4Kx4K resolution per eye at 90 fps; HDR10/HDR10+ support
|Supports dual monochrome cameras; multi-camera concurrency
|WiFi 6E/6; Bluetooth 5.3
|Android / Windows Mixed Reality
This technical blueprint positions the platform as the spearhead for Qualcomm’s “Spatial Computing for Billions” strategic vision spanning augmented reality glasses, affordable consumer VR headsets, and multidimensional XR co-presence across home and office environments.
While Apple’s pricey Vision Pro headset grabs early enthusiasm, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chips promise to put higher resolution, more responsive, AI-enhanced mixed world experiences into consumer hands at scale in the near future. This potential to shape broad acceptance and utility for XR worlds firmly plants Qualcomm among the most influential technology players charting the next transformative computing transition.
What Comes Next? Even More Immersive XR Innovation
Industry observers see Qualcomm’s latest XR silicon powering consumer availability of more advanced mixed reality experiences over the next 12-18 months. This serves the vital purpose of expanding developer tools and use cases to fuel ever richer applications leveraging spatial computing capabilities.
Once the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 hits market in upcoming Samsung and Google headsets, Qualcomm promises even more boundary-pushing innovation on its roadmap towards unlocking the full potential of immersive XR technologies:
“We are already redefining what is possible in spatial computing with our second-generation Qualcomm Snapdragon XR platform,” said VP & GM of AR/VR Hugo Swart.
He concludes: “We are continuing to push boundaries and revolutionize this sector, with an extremely robust and exciting roadmap ahead.”
With Apple raising expectations for XR human-technology interfaces and Qualcomm driving new performance frontiers for the next wave of augmented and virtual reality, consumers can look forward to unprecedented expansions of their digital and physical worlds seamlessly converging in the not too distant future.
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