Introducing a groundbreaking evolution in the world of technology, the future of VR and AR headsets is set to be revolutionized by phone integration, with Qualcomm leading the charge. The innovative concept of Qualcomm’s 5G phone-powered VR/AR headsets, scheduled for a 2020 debut, is reshaping the landscape of immersive experiences.

Imagine a world where the fusion of cutting-edge technology seamlessly merges with everyday devices. Qualcomm’s vision entails harnessing the power of phones, connected via USB-C, to unlock a realm of possibilities within VR and AR headsets. This forward-thinking approach not only enhances functionality but also promises an unparalleled user experience.

By incorporating features such as eye tracking, full 6DoF positional tracking akin to Oculus Quest, and intuitive controller-free hand gestures, Qualcomm is setting new standards in the industry. The Qualcomm Snapdragon Smart Viewer Reference Design stands as a testament to this vision, bridging the gap between phones and headsets through its Snapdragon XR1 processor.

Stay ahead of the curve as we delve deeper into the realm of possibilities that Qualcomm’s innovative headset design offers, ushering in a future where technology seamlessly integrates into our lives like never before.

Eye Tracking Onboard

Eye tracking technology has been integrated into the Smart Viewer through Tobii, showcasing a significant advancement. Qualcomm had previously introduced eye tracking in mobile VR headset prototypes over a year ago, but the possibility of it becoming more prevalent in various products is now on the horizon.

While the Smart Viewer is designed to connect with a phone or a PC, it has the potential to operate independently without a phone if a manufacturer opts to include onboard storage, transforming it into a simpler VR-AR device. Qualcomm highlights that the decision to include standalone features hinges on whether users prefer enhanced functionalities at a higher cost and larger size or a sleeker, smartglass-like appearance.

Qualcomm’s chips are progressively being incorporated into numerous major AR and VR mobile headsets in the market, such as Microsoft HoloLens, Oculus Quest, Vive Focus, Google Glass, and Google’s standalone Daydream VR platform. The introduction of this reference design is significant as past Qualcomm VR reference designs have paved the way for devices like the Oculus Go, Google’s Lenovo Mirage Solo, HTC Vive Focus, and Oculus Quest.

The Smart Viewer reference design, crafted by GoerTek, targets businesses looking to customize or adopt the technology. According to Qualcomm’s Swart, the aim is to expedite the development of future VR and AR headsets. While Swart anticipates that only a few headsets based on this design will be available by 2019, 2020 is expected to see a wave of headsets leveraging this reference design and technology.

This indicates that in addition to the rise of 5G phones, the near future may usher in a plethora of cost-effective, USB-C connected smartglasses and VR headsets.

VR and AR headsets are set to be powered by phones through USB-C connections in the upcoming future, according to Qualcomm’s strategy. These headsets are expected to offer advanced capabilities beyond the current standards. Features such as eye tracking, full 6DoF positional tracking similar to Oculus Quest, and hands-free gestures are all part of the exciting developments to anticipate.

Qualcomm had previously mentioned the arrival of USB-C compatible VR and AR headsets earlier this year. A newly unveiled working prototype reference design sheds more light on the functionality of these headsets. The Qualcomm Snapdragon Smart Viewer Reference Design is designed to link with a selected range of 5G-supported Snapdragon 855 phones using USB-C. Moreover, it incorporates its own Snapdragon XR1 processor (similar to the one in the new Google Glass) to handle processing tasks. This setup envisions the phone handling the heavy-duty VR operations while the headset chip manages tasks like controller tracking, eye tracking, and headset positioning.

The integration of phone and headset technologies, along with the split processing approach, represents a significant step forward in the VR and AR landscape, according to Qualcomm’s head of XR, Hugo Swart. Unlike standalone VR headsets like the Oculus Quest that rely on dedicated onboard chips for performance, Qualcomm’s split processing model opens the door to more compact and cost-effective headsets.

The headset reference design supports full-motion 6DoF controllers akin to the Oculus Quest, as well as controller-free hand tracking similar to the HoloLens, enabling interactions like tapping, zooming, pinching, and scrolling. It boasts a 2K-per-eye display with a 72Hz refresh rate, along with dual front cameras capable of tracking full-motion controllers or hand gestures (in contrast to the four front cameras on the Oculus Quest).

One notable feature of the Smart Viewer is the built-in eye tracking technology provided by Tobii. While Qualcomm had introduced eye tracking in mobile VR headset prototypes over a year ago, this implementation appears poised for broader adoption. The Smart Viewer can operate with a phone or a PC, and potentially as a standalone device, depending on manufacturers’ preferences for onboard storage and functionality.

Qualcomm’s chips are increasingly prevalent in major AR and VR mobile headsets such as Microsoft HoloLens, Oculus Quest, Vive Focus, Google Glass, and Google’s Daydream VR platform. The introduction of the Smart Viewer reference design is significant as past Qualcomm VR references have led to successful hardware like the Oculus Go, Google’s Lenovo Mirage Solo, HTC Vive Focus, and Oculus Quest.

Manufactured by GoerTek, the Smart Viewer reference design targets businesses keen on customizing or integrating the technology. The aim, as per Qualcomm’s Swart, is to expedite the arrival of future VR and AR headsets. While widespread adoption may not occur in 2019, headsets based on this reference design are expected to launch in 2020, aligning with the emergence of 5G phones.

Consequently, we anticipate a proliferation of budget-friendly USB-C connected smart glasses and VR headsets alongside the advancements brought forth by Qualcomm’s innovations.