Qualcomm’s latest AR glasses reference design drops the tether, retains computing power

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Qualcomm has unveiled its latest reference design for AR glasses, which it offers as a blueprint for other companies to build their own AR devices. The reference design, which gives us a strong indication of the specs and capabilities of upcoming products, still relies on a smartphone to handle the heavy processing power, but this time it’s based on a wireless design.

Qualcomm’s earlier reference design for AR glasses was based on the Snapdragon XR1 chip and required a wired connection between a smartphone and the glasses, allowing the system to split rendering tasks between the two devices.

Now the company’s latest design, based on the Snapdragon XR2, takes the wire out of the equation. But rather than becoming fully self-contained, the new reference design still relies on the smartphone to handle most of the heavy-duty rendering, but now does so over a wireless connection between devices.

Image courtesy of Qualcomm

In addition to the Snapdragon XR2, the AR glasses pack Qualcomm’s FastConnect 6900 chip, which equips them with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. The company says the chip is designed for “ultra-low latency,” managing less than 3ms of latency between the headset and the smartphone. The company also announced this XR specific software to control the FastConnect 6900enabling device manufacturers to optimize wireless traffic between devices to prioritize the most time-sensitive data to reduce delay or jitter due to radio interference.

Although a connected smartphone seems like the most obvious use case, Qualcomm also says the glasses could just as easily be paired with a Windows PC or “processing puck”.

Aside from the added wireless tech, the company says the latest design is 40% thinner than its previous reference design. The latest version has a resolution of 1,920 × 1,080 (2 MP) per eye at 90 Hz. The microdisplays include a “no motion blur” feature, which sounds like a low-persistence mode designed to help a prevent blurring of the image during head movement. A pair of monochrome cameras is used for 6DOF tracking and an RGB camera for video or photo capture. The company didn’t mention the device’s field of view, so it’s unlikely to be larger than the previous 45° diagonal reference design.

Like its many previous reference designs, Qualcomm won’t actually manufacture and sell the AR glasses. Instead, it offers other companies the design and underlying technology as a blueprint for building their own devices (hopefully using Qualcomm’s chips!). Companies building on Qualcomm’s blueprint typically introduce their own industrial design and custom software offerings; Some even customize the hardware itself, e.g. B. the use of different displays or optics.

That makes this AR glasses reference design a pretty good snapshot of the current state of AR glasses that can be mass-produced, and a glimpse of what some companies will be offering in the near future.

Qualcomm says its latest AR glasses reference design is “available to select partners” starting today and plans to make it more widely available “in the coming months.”

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