Qualcomm has drawn the curtain on a mixed reality headset design based on its high-powered XR2 chipset around this time last year, but it’s still not done with the processor that precedes that one. The company announced today that it will release a new benchmark XR1-powered headset design, and usually you will probably never be able to get your hands on any of these things. It is currently being distributed to “certain partners,” and the next batch of XR hardware developers will be able to claim theirs in the coming months.
Built in partnership with longtime hardware partner Goertek, the new benchmark headset features a pair of 1080p micro-OLED displays that support frame rates up to 90Hz, as well as an 8-megapixel camera with image stabilization and two monochrome cameras for head and hand tracking. And since this headset is what Qualcomm calls a “smart viewer” – as opposed to the simpler connected external displays we’ve seen in the past – it shares the computational load with its host device. Thanks to the optimizations built into the headset for tasks such as gesture recognition and graphics processing, this sharing of responsibilities can help reduce the power consumption of the connected phone or PC by up to 30%.
Oddly enough, this benchmark design isn’t the first headset we’ve seen to pack Qualcomm’s XR1 this year – Lenovo has announced its professional direction ThinkReality X3 Glasses at CES 2021, which can be connected to PCs and “select Motorola smartphones”. Developers can expect similar device compatibility with Qualcomm’s new headset, although the company notes that it will work well with stand-alone “processor pucks” as well.
While it may seem unusual for Qualcomm to come up with another benchmark design for a two-year-old chipset – and considerably less powerful than the XR2 revealed last year – it’s an important step towards normalizing expectations for the first wave of intelligent viewers in mixed reality. When connected to a PC, for example, Qualcomm’s headset can render multiple screens virtual, so users can pin app windows to the space in front of their face. The same goes for smartphones: In addition to running immersive and bespoke mobile AR software, the company’s 2D application framework allows standard bog Android apps to run in windows floating around. the user.
Ultimately, Qualcomm aims to develop fully autonomous AR headsets, with 5G built in, a process that Qualcomm XR vice president Hugo Swart predicts will take a few years. Until then, benchmark designs like the one announced this morning continue to serve an important purpose: to give entry-level hardware developers a foundation to help them build the headsets and software to make XR devices truly worth having. used now.