Today, during Augmented World Expo (AWE) — a large on-line Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) event for creators, developers, investors, and product leaders in the space — Qualcomm and 15 partners announced plans to bring lightweight XR Viewers to both the consumer and enterprise markets within the next year.
Qualcomm’s partners in this endeavor include global operators China Mobile, China Telecom, China Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, EE, KDDI, KT, LG Uplus, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, SK Telecom, SoftBank, Telefonica, Verizon and Vodafone. All of these partners have revealed plans to commercialize XR Viewers to provide immersive, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) experiences over 5G networks. Once the build-outs are complete, 5G networks will offer greater bandwidth, lower latency, and improved reliability versus existing 4G networks, which will enable new, use-cases, like XR mobile computing.
An array of partners revealed their XR Viewers, including Panasonic, Oppo, Pico, and Nreal, among many others. The overarching design of these XR Viewers calls for lightweight, head-worn devices that connect to smartphones powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855 or 865 Mobile Platforms. The XR Viewers resembles glasses, and are much smaller than typical VR HMD (head-mounted displays). The viewers are designed to be tethered to a 5G-enabled smartphone via USB-C. The XR Viewers will leverage the compute and graphics capabilities of the Snapdragon powered devices to provide XR experiences, like virtual business meetings, holographic tele-presence, and virtual collaboration. Virtual meetings of any type, like this example hosted by Qualcomm, will be possible from anywhere will a 5G connection.
In addition to the companies’ plans, Qualcomm also provided some details regarding it XR Optimized Certification Program. Though the program, Qualcomm will evaluate the performance and validate the compatibility the XR Viewer with various 5G-enabled smartphones to ensure a quality user experience. Should the devices pass qualification, the XR Optimized Certification Program will provide two certifications, one for the smartphone and another for the XR Viewer. The goal is to enable OEMs to more quickly and easily verify optimizations between multiple phones and XR viewers, without requiring individual optimizations on per-device basis. The certifications program will evaluate things like 6-Degrees of Freedom (6DoF) head-tracking performance (on the viewer and smartphone), display calibration validation, motion to photon latency validation, power and thermal tests, and device interoperability. The XR Optimized Certification Program is a key quality assurance measure that should provide for smoother adoption, for both consumers and enterprise users alike.
The first wave of devices are meant to be tethered to 5G-enabled smartphones via wired connections, but over the course of the next few years, wireless XR Viewers are also planned, and beyond that completely standalone models that don’t require a companion device will arrive as well. With the current work from home trend, which is not likely to wane anytime soon, lightweight XR Viewers like these that can leverage the power of mobile devices most of us are already carrying are likely to have much broader appeal than the larger HMDs associated with many of today’s VR kits.
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