In a startling reveal through Qualcomm’s official media channels at the end of May, the company introduced the Snapdragon XR1 chip. This new chipset platform is claimed to be the world’s very first mixed reality technology optimized chip platform.
The Exclusive Mixed Reality Experience?
The Snapdragon XR1 (XR is actually a new term and stands for extended reality, which includes AR, VR and MR), is built with the purpose of allowing entry level mixed reality technology applications to be more available and accessible. Compared to traditional mainstream mixed reality-enabled mobile devices, it is designed to provide enhanced AR/VR experience, through a variety of different ultra-high quality audio and video playback features.
The chip slated to support 4K 60fps videos, 3D overlays and dual displays, as well as compatibility for popular graphics APIs such as OpenGL, OpenCL and Vulkan. For the audio side, it supports 3D Audio, Aqstic and aptX. It will also feature a system introduced as Head Related Transfer Functions, which is described as a somewhat more realistic 3D sound effects system that allows better immersion within its mixed reality realm.
Additionally, the XR1 is developed as part of Qualcomm’s high-end 800 series chipset. This means that it will also have all the series’ signature features. Most notably, it will enable heterogeneous computing, a feature that allows newer Snapdragon CPUs to assign computing tasks to specific cores to optimize performance.
Qualcomm’s Road to Reality
Qualcomm has been known to develop a number of mobile AR and VR platforms over the past couple of years. The pioneering Samsung Gear VR for example, was initially released along with the Note 4, which used the back then next-generation Snapdragon 805. It was not specifically designed with AR and VR in mind, but it was workable with AR and VR, thus provided a baseline mixed reality experience for early adopters of the technology.
However, after almost half a decade of repurposing mobile chipsets for mixed reality devices, the XR1 seemed to have finally broken the trend as the first true mixed reality technology optimized platform.
It is worth noting that while the XR1 is developed with enhancement mind, it is actually quite less powerful in terms of performance to the also quite-recently unveiled mixed reality-compatible Snapdragon 845 mobile chip. As mentioned earlier, the XR1 is better suited for entry level devices, commercial products which are designed to make VR and AR more universally accessible.
As for software and app development, the XR1 comes with an SDK platform that would make it easier for manufacturers to integrate all of its new features onto upcoming apps and/or devices. Qualcomm has also revealed that companies like Meta, Pico, Vive, and Vuzix are now already working on new devices that would use the XR1 chip. The company estimates that the first batch of products supporting the XR1 will arrive in the market as early as 2019.