Qualcomm has announced its next-generation Snapdragon XR2 chip for virtual and augmented reality headsets. Dubbed the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2, the new chip enables headset resolutions up to 4K per eye with increased performance capabilities.
According to Qualcomm, both Samsung and Google plan to use the new XR2 chip in their upcoming headsets. This pits the chip against Apple’s custom Vision Pro silicon found in the rumored Apple headset expected to be unveiled later this year.
Key Details on the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 Chip
The Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 builds upon the original XR2 chip with improved AI capabilities and camera support. Here are some of the key highlights:
- Up to 40% faster CPU and 50% more powerful GPU performance compared to the previous generation
- Supports headset resolutions up to 4Kx4K per eye at 90 frames per second
- Hardware-accelerated support for Av1 video decoding up to 8K360
- Dual ISP (image signal processor) for stereo cameras, unlocking advanced computer vision capabilities
- Dedicated computer vision processor provides up to 8.5 TOPS AI performance
- Specialized audio technologies for spatial sound
- 5G and WiFi 7 connectivity
Compared to Apple’s Vision Pro chip expected to enable resolutions around 2K per eye, the XR2 Gen 2 allows for significantly higher resolutions approaching an 8Kx8K render target. This enables far more detailed visuals and immersive environments.
The chip is capable of powering experiences ranging from complex virtual worlds to photorealistic overlays of digital content anchored to the real physical environment.
Samsung, Google Headsets to Rival Apple
With the new XR2 powering their devices, both Samsung and Google are gearing up headsets to compete directly with Apple’s rumored premium mixed reality headset.
While details remain scarce, Samsung is reportedly developing a headset under the project codename “Project Voyager” similarly aimed at high-end consumer and enterprise use cases.
Meanwhile, Google has confirmed it is working on an augmented reality headset as the successor to its Daydream VR initiative years ago. The headset is currently under development by a team led by Clay Bavor, vice president of Google Labs.
Both headsets are high priorities for the companies as Apple enters the space. Though the purported Apple headset has generated significant buzz based on early reports and leaks, its application may remain niche given expected pricing around $3,000 putting it out of reach for most consumers.
SoC Platforms for Major AR/VR Headsets
|Apple Vision Pro
|Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2
|Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2
|Meta Quest Pro
|Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 1
With headsets from Samsung and Google leveraging the new XR2 platform promising advanced capabilities at lower price points compared to Apple’s offering, Qualcomm may be poised to dominate the AR/VR silicon market in 2024 and beyond.
Evolution of Qualcomm’s Focus on XR Silicon
Qualcomm has invested heavily in XR hardware over the past several years through its Snapdragon platforms. With the new Gen 2 chip, it is cementing its leadership position to power the next generation of immersive devices across both virtual and augmented reality.
Its first efforts began in 2018 with the Snapdragon 845 VR reference design headset initiative targeted at demonstrating standalone VR powered by smartphone components. This paved the way for subsequent Snapdragon platforms focused explicitly on the unique demands of spatial computing workloads.
In late 2020, Qualcomm announced the dedicated Snapdragon XR2 platform built on 5G connectivity enabling major performance leaps over repurposed smartphone SoCs.
Meta adopted the XR2 for its high-end Quest Pro headset released last fall. However, limitations remained in resolution and pixel density at the Qualcomm XR2’s 1.5K per eye target.
The new XR2 Gen 2 seeks to address these gaps with up to 2.6x higher resolution and pixel density than its predecessor. This brings a transformative increase in visual fidelity unlocking the next generation of lifelike virtual environments.
Broader Industry Impact
By powering devices from multiple top-tier brands spanning both VR and AR, Qualcomm’s latest innovation stands to accelerate ecosystem development helping to usher immersive computing into the mainstream.
The semiconductor giant has taken an end-to-end approach addressing challenges across hardware, computer vision, audio, connectivity, and content delivery to reduce barriers across the AR/VR value chain.
Its integrated architectures lower development overhead for manufacturers while providing turnkey building blocks to create compelling experiences. This contrasts with Apple’s more proprietary vertical integration locking users into a single brand.
With over $16 billion invested in R&D over the past 5 years, Qualcomm is positioned at the forefront driving rapid iteration of spatial computing technologies.
Outlook on Adoption of New Capabilities
The technical feats enabled by the Snapdragon XR Gen 2 open possibilities previously confined to literature and science fiction. Multibillion dollar investments from major players signal confidence that XR adoption will achieve critical velocity in short order.
With resolutions matching human visual acuity, we approach the threshold where experiences become indistinguishable from reality. While hardware advances at astounding pace, there remain open questions around ideal use cases and interaction paradigms to truly capitalize on Qualcomm’s latest breakthroughs.
Teasing out the scenarios delivering on this promise in a sticky and profound way remains the next grand challenge. But the raw potential unlocked positions the immersive web as the likely next epoch-defining platform.
2024 sets the stage for this emerging medium to permeate consumer and enterprise contexts alike. As 5G connectivity reaches ubiquity and spatial computing hardware achieves technical milestones redefining fidelity benchmarks, the so-called “metaverse” draws tantalizingly close at hand.
The race is on to see which bold bets exploring spatial computing’s uncharted terrain will bear out the next hits capturing hearts, minds, and wallets. But with juggernauts like Samsung and Google building atop Qualcomm’s robust unified architecture, the means to sculpt these virtual worlds now exists.
To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.