Qualcomm unveils Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 chips for 4K XR


Qualcomm unveiled its Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 chip platform, elevating mixed reality experiences for a new generation of devices.

In a press briefing ahead of CES 2024 — the big tech trade show in Las Vegas next week — Qualcomm introduced its new chip architecture promising a new echelon of spatial computing with 4.3K resolution per eye at 90 frames per second.

Said Bakadir, senior director of product management at Qualcomm, said in a press briefing that five original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are working on new devices based on Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2. This includes Samsung, HTC Vive, Immersed and Play for Dream (formerly YVR). The fifth unnamed customer will unveil a product on January 8.

“Today I would like to share with you the new platform, which is Snapdragon XR+ Gen 2, which will be the platform that will enable spatial computing in 4K,” Bakadir said. “And it has a 12-millisecond video passthrough” in full color. A lot of the processing its happening in a smarter way, with features like foveated rendering leaving the areas of an image that you can’t see in a blurry state, saving on both processing and power resources.

This advancement marks a significant leap in immersive mixed reality (MR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences across various applications, blending real and digital environments seamlessly.

Qualcomm is touting a new generation of XR.

Enhancing the recently launched Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2, the XR2+ Gen 2 platform boosts GPU frequency by 15% and CPU frequency by 20%, allowing for more detailed and lifelike experiences. The overall GPU performance is 2.5 times better than the previous generation.

“These are important because now when you think about a device that is a 4K by 4K alone, people want more juice to do more things,” said Bakadir. “Gen 2 is bringing higher resolution on the display, higher GPU frequency, higher CPU frequency, more cameras than ever before, delivered in a very optimal power budget” that is key for comfort, cost and size.

The platform’s support for 12 or more concurrent cameras, coupled with powerful on-device AI, enables effortless user and environment tracking, fostering navigation and experiences that bridge the physical and digital realms. Meta’s Meta Quest Pro headset came out more than a year ago with 10 sensors, but that device held the high end at $1,100.

It’s clear that Qualcomm will spur a new generation of devices, but it remains unclear just how big the market will become.

Bakadir said the AR/VR market continues to grow and sprout different form factors, from glasses to new kinds of headsets to mobile devices. All of those devices need intelligent cameras or sensors. The use cases are multiplying, he said. He noted that Qualcomm has six different families of Snapdragon platforms to address the XR markets.

He noted that the Meta Quest 3, which debuted in the fall, already has a rich portfolio of games and apps. It sells for $500 and up and has Snapdragon hardware in it. Apple is likely to spur the market with its coming launch of the Apple Vision Pro, but Qualcomm doesn’t have its tech that platform.

I asked Bakadir if the motion sickness many people feel while using VR will be reduced with the better visuals. He said that motion sickness comes from multiple problems, such as latency in optics, from the screen-door effect, chromatic aberration and more. The 4K graphics will solve issues like the screen-door effect, he said. But each individual will likely have a different reaction, with variations in whether people get tired after a short time or just can’t tolerate the VR at all.

Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2
Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 details

“Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 unlocks 4.3K resolution which will take XR productivity and entertainment to
the next level by bringing spectacularly clear visuals to use cases such as room-scale screens, life-size
overlays and virtual desktops,” said Hugo Swart, vice president and general manager of XR at Qualcomm, in a statement. “We are advancing our commitment to power the best XR devices and experiences that
will supercharge our immersive future.”

Samsung Electronics and Google are set to leverage the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 platform to deliver cutting-edge XR experiences.

Inkang Song, vice president and head of the technology strategy team at Samsung Electronics, said in a statement, Samsung is thrilled to collaborate with Qualcomm Technologies and Google in revolutionizing the mobile industry once more. With Samsung’s mobile expertise and our joint commitment, we aim to create the best-in-class XR experience for Galaxy users.”

Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 will offer more intense 3D graphics in VR.

“We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Qualcomm Technologies and Samsung on the
future of immersive and spatial XR,” said Shahram Izadi, vice president of AR at Google, in a statement. “We’re excited for the Android ecosystem to take advantage of Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2’s capabilities and enable new experiences.”

In addition to the XR2+ Gen 2, Qualcomm Technologies unveiled an MR & VR reference design developed by Goertek, featuring eye-tracking technology from Tobii. This reference design supports both 3K per eye (Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2) and 4K per eye (Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2) configurations, aiming to accelerate the time to market for OEMs looking to harness the potential of XR technologies.

Qualcomm believes the devices will emerge in 2024, but the shipment dates depend on its partners’ decisions.

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