As the lines between VR and AR blur, with things like phones capable of doing both and apps starting to live in both spaces, it has been suggested in several places to call the two together Cross Reality, or «XR.» “refer to the spectrum. It’s an idea Qualcomm seems to be a big fan of as it announces a new Snapdragon 845 based dev kit to help build the future of these devices.
I spent a few minutes with this new reference design and it paints a pretty clear picture of what Qualcomm thinks the next year or two of these events will look like.
Clearer displays, faster processing
This year’s dev kit is a Snapdragon 845-powered standalone VR headset that Qualcomm has designed to be generally more capable and less power-hungry than previous models. In VR environments, this enhanced capability means that Qualcomm can focus on improving the graphics aimed at the displays as well as the way the headset tracks the outside world.
With this new VRDK, Qualcomm uses Foveted Rendering as well as Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM) technology to make the experience more immersive. SLAM technology allows the headset to seamlessly render a 20-foot square room and allows the user to walk around as if the headset is being tracked from the outside, while the new rendering method will make the center of the lens with the sharpest graphics while the rest of the lens area is slightly blurred.
Qualcomm pairs the Snapdragon 845 with 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage, along with Tobii eye-tracking sensors and a USB-C port for charging. The headset itself has six degrees of freedom (6 DoF), so tracking it is similar to a standalone Daydream or Vive Focus headset. As with these headsets, the controller included in the dev kit only has three degrees of freedom (3DoF), so it’s limited to spin right in front of you rather than natural motion like the Vive or PlayStation VR. Qualcomm says it’s willing to work with partners to add 6DoF controller support, but that feature isn’t the immediate goal of this release. The included Ximmerse controller looks and feels very similar to the Samsung Gear VR or Oculus Go controller, with its trigger on the bottom and trackpad-like button on the top.
The focus of this headset is on improving the current experience rather than using a lot of new features. Qualcomm is working on millimeter accuracy with inside-out tracking with SLAM enhancements to external cameras and making it possible for developers to really expand their capabilities, like eye tracking. Tobii’s partnership with Qualcomm allows you to use the headset’s built-in eye tracking, allowing you to glance at your chosen option or move naturally in a social VR environment.