Tech

Qualcomm launches XR1 AR Smart Viewer platform

Qualcomm has launched its latest augmented reality (AR) prototype platform based on the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 platform.

The platform provides hardware developers with all of the tools they need to deliver a high-performance, immersive experience in a headset or smart glasses device that consumes low amounts of power.

The XR1 AR Smart Viewer reference design (which customers use to create their hardware products) lets customers create their own augmented reality (AR) smart viewer. Based on the design, consumers and enterprise users will be able to wear the AR glasses and plug them into a smartphone, Windows PC, or another Qualcomm Snapdragon device to tap more computing power or battery power.

The AR smart viewer has processing in the reference design to help distribute computing workloads between the viewer and the host device, compared to an AR simple viewer that does not have any processing on the viewer. The AR smart viewer reference design packs significant performance features and premium use cases for both the enterprise and consumers, Qualcomm VP Hugo Swart said in a press briefing. What’s different now is the ability to put some processing into the glasses.

I listened to Swart talk about this while inside Spatial’s mixed-reality app. I logged in via my smartphone and then joined the press briefing in virtual reality using an Oculus Quest 2 VR headset. Swart showed slides on a screen inside the virtual room, and he took questions from journalists who were inside the space as virtual avatars.

Above: Qualcomm’s XR1 AR Smart Viewer reference design.

Image Credit: Qualcomm

The platform has split processing, with some of that computation happening in the glasses themselves and some on the device, which is connected to the glasses via a wire. This design helps keep the glasses small and comfortable, but it also brings computing power to the device, Swart said.

The 2D app framework provides a systems-level feature that helps launch smartphone applications into multiple virtual displays that can be anchored within the user’s AR simple viewer. It is compatible with select smartphones, host processing pucks, and PCs, including but not limited to devices powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon Platform’s 800 series processors.

The framework also supports protected content viewing to watch premium movies and streaming services with the smart viewer. Users will be able to tether to a PC, and the smart viewer combines plane detection and the ability to render multiple virtual displays to allow virtual PC windows to be anchored to planes in the real world.

Above: You can plug smart viewer AR glasses into other devices.

Image Credit: Qualcomm

“We believe that standalone, all-in-one devices will continue to evolve, will continue to get better, smaller,” Swart said. “But there’s also a market for AR connected to devices that we already use. So it’s not that we think it’s one or the other.”

Microsoft said it will bring its Azure MR services to the Snapdragon mixed-reality ecosystem. Lenovo also recently unveiled its ThinkReality A3 — powered by the Snapdragon XR1 Platform. Lenovo is targeting its smart glasses device at the enterprise with a launch in mid-2021. Nreal has also embraced the platform with its latest smart glasses products.

“We want this reference design to be the catalyst for these smart viewers that our customers will commercialize, will make available to the end consumer and enterprises based on the XR1,” Swart said. “It’s an AR smart viewer reference design. The benefits of smart viewers include low power, as you get a 30% reduction in system power when you go from a simple viewer to a smart viewer.”

He added, “You can now run more data concurrently, enable hand tracking and eye tracking, and run with richer graphics. It makes the experience more immersive. We’ve also built for multiple types of hosts, from 5G phones to PCs.”

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