Qualcomm drew the curtain on a mixed reality headset design based on its high-powered XR2 chipset around this time last year, but it’s not done with the processor that precedes that yet. The company announced today that it will be releasing a new reference headphone design powered by XR1, and generally, you will probably never get your hands on one of these things. It’s rolling out to “select partners” right now, and the next batch of XR hardware developers will be able to claim theirs in the coming months.
Built in partnership with long-time hardware partner Goertek, the new reference headset includes a pair of 1080p micro-OLED displays that support frame rates up to 90Hz, along with an 8-megapixel camera with image stabilization and two monochrome cameras for the head and hand. tracing. And since this headset is what Qualcomm refers to as a “smart viewer,” unlike the simpler connected external displays we’ve seen in the past, it shares the computational load with your host device. Thanks to optimizations in the headsets for tasks like gesture recognition and graphics processing, this division of responsibilities can help reduce power consumption on the connected phone or PC by up to 30 percent.
Interestingly, this reference design isn’t the first headset we’ve seen in Qualcomm’s XR1 bundle this year – Lenovo announced its business-focused ThinkReality X3 lenses at CES 2021, which can be connected to PCs and “select Motorola smartphones.” Developers can expect similar device compatibility with Qualcomm’s new headphones, although the company notes that it will also work well with standalone “processor disks.”
While it may seem unusual for Qualcomm to introduce another reference design for a chipset that is two years old, and considerably less powerful than the XR2 revealed last year, it is an important step towards standardizing expectations for the first wave of scopes. mixed reality smart phones. . When connected to a PC, for example, Qualcomm headphones can render multiple virtual screens, so users can pin application windows to the space in front of their faces. The same goes for smartphones too: in addition to running custom, immersive mobile AR software, the company’s 2D app framework allows standard Android apps to run in floating windows around the user.
Ultimately, Qualcomm aims to develop fully autonomous AR headsets, complete with onboard 5G, a process that Qualcomm XR VP Hugo Swart hopes will take a few years. Until then, reference designs like the one announced this morning continue to serve an important purpose: to provide budding hardware developers with a foundation to help them build the headphones and software so that XR devices are really worth using right now. .