Qualcomm Announces AR Headset 'Smart Viewer' Reference Design

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    Qualcomm, maker of chips and technologies for mobile devices, today announced a reference design for a tethered AR headset which is tethered to a phone or PC but also contains its own chips to handle some onboard processing. The company calls the split-processing approach an AR ‘smart viewer’ headset.

    Qualcomm, which makes the chips in many popular smartphones, has also been aggressively pursuing the growing XR market. The company offers two chips specifically intended for AR and VR headsets, Snapdragon XR1 & XR2, which are found in major devices like Quest 2 and HoloLens 2.

    Part of Qualcomm’s efforts involve creating headset ‘reference designs’, which act as blueprints (built around the company’s chips, naturally) that other companies can use as a starting point to bring their own headset to market.

    Qualcomm’s latest reference design is a tethered AR headset which the company calls an ‘AR smart viewer.’ What differentiates an AR smart viewer from a basic tethered AR viewer is the inclusion of onboard processing which helps to offload some of the work from the tethered device onto the headset itself.

    Image courtesy Qualcomm

    Basic tethered AR viewers send all of their sensor data to the tethered host device (usually a smartphone) which handles all of the sensor processing while also rendering the AR environment and application. For devices not designed for sustained workloads, that can push a smartphone to its limits in both power and cooling capabilities.

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    AR smart viewers, Qualcomm contends, include their own onboard processor (Snapdragon XR1 in this case) which can handle some of the sensor processing and display tasks, ultimately reducing the power consumption of the tethered device by some 30%. The only downside, it seems, is greater expense due to the added processing hardware.

    Though companies that adopt Qualcomm’s reference designs may further customize their product, the reference designs themselves offer a fairly clear picture of what kind of devices we’re likely to see in the next year or two.

    For the AR smart viewer reference design, Qualcomm is offering the following specs: