If companies are going to make augmented reality glasses that you’d actually want to wear, they’re going to need chips that are powerful but don’t require a big battery on your head. Qualcomm thinks it can help. The company has revealed a Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 platform built with sleek AR glasses in mind. The multi-chip design reportedly delivers 2.5 times the AI performance of the company’s XR2-based reference design while using half the power. You could have glasses that intelligently detect objects in the room while remaining slim and light enough to use for hours at a time.
Part of the trick is to spread the computing load across the frames of the glasses, Qualcomm says. The primary 4nm-based AR processor includes a CPU, Tensor AI processing, graphics, and engines for functions such as visual analysis. It can support up to nine simultaneous cameras to track both your body and the world around you. A co-processor elsewhere in the glasses houses an AI accelerator for tasks such as eye tracking and computer vision, while a third chip provides connectivity to networks and phones. This not only provides a better weight balance, but also leads to smaller circuit boards and fewer wires than with a single all-rounder chip.
That networking is also important, says Qualcomm. Like Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in phones, AR2 Gen 1 is one of the first platforms to support WiFi 7. That’s crucial not only to provide the amount of bandwidth to connect to a handset (up to 5.8 Gbps), but also to reduce latency (under 2ms to your phone, according to Qualcomm). Combined with lag reduction in the processor and co-processor, you should have a more natural-feeling and responsive experience.
Hardware built on AR2 Gen 1 is in “various stages” of progress at multiple well-known companies, including Lenovo, LG, Nreal, Oppo, and Xiaomi. Importantly, Microsoft had a hand in the platform requirements. Don’t be surprised if one day you use AR2 for virtual collaboration in Mesh, not to mention other Microsoft apps and services.
Qualcomm has also introduced meaningful updates to its audio technology. New S3 Gen 2 sound and S5 Gen 2 sound platforms promise to make the latest listening tech more commonplace, including head-tracking spatial audio, lower gaming latency, and the latest take on adaptive active noise cancellation (think the transparency modes found on some earbuds). You won’t see real-world products until the second half of 2023, but these chips could democratize features previously reserved for more expensive earbuds and headphones.
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