Day two of chipmaker Qualcomm’s annual Snapdragon Summit saw the unveiling of the Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 — the company’s first dedicated augmented reality chipset — designed to enhance AR experiences through smart glasses and other similar head-worn wearables to use.
Qualcomm already has a well-established presence in the XR (Virtual Reality/VR, Mixed Reality/MR and Augmented Reality/AR) space, with Meta Quest 2 and Pico 4 notably running on the company’s recent XR2 platform, while Meta’s fresh- Faced Quest Pro headset – which easily dabbles in mixed reality thanks to its full-color passthrough support – is one of the first headsets to run on Qualcomm’s upgraded XR2 Plus chipset. However, the experiences and devices that the AR2 Gen 1 aims to support are a bit different.
Until now, even existing Qualcomm-powered augmented reality wearables like Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 have had their size and shape determined in part by the size and power requirements of the current chipsets they run on. While it’s a look more suited to traditional everyday sunglasses, even the proprietary Snapdragon XR1-powered AR reference design comes with chunky temples and unusual proportions to house the XR1 chipset inside.
Despite the somewhat confusing name, the newly unveiled Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 is Qualcomm’s first attempt at a dedicated AR platform that better fits the form factor of augmented reality glasses that science fiction promised us; a head-worn AR system that doesn’t have to compromise on the dimensions of traditional sunglasses like previous attempts, while offering better connectivity and lower latency than previous devices.
Rather than having to fit a single SoC into the bridge or arms of smart glasses, AR2 Gen 1 separates three elements to reduce the overall platform footprint; making it easier to fit into a wider range of form factors.
Compared to the XR2, the AR2 Gen 1 features a 40% smaller circuit board and 45% less cabling, with the new reference design Qualcomm showing off during the summit placing the AR main processor in one arm, the connectivity module in the other, and the AR coprocessor in the bridge.
Analysis: the right tool for the job
With heavier processing power offloaded to a supporting device (like a smartphone), the AR2 Gen 1’s hardware can instead focus on delivering a faster, more responsive experience, broken by the same new FastConnect 7800 WiFi module found in the The company’s newly announced Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile chip offers cutting-edge WiFi 7 speeds with less than 2ms latency.
Additionally, this focused approach means the AR2 Gen 1 also offers 50% less power consumption and 2.5x better AI performance when it comes to tasks like object recognition and hand tracking compared to the XR2.
Companies like LG, Nreal, Oppo, Pico, TCL, and Xiaomi have already committed to developing their own AR devices running on the AR2 Gen 1, with the potential for hardware-assisted 6DoF tracking, eye tracking, and a host of others great AR features expected to appear on this next wave of devices.
Until those slimmer, sleeker, and more responsive AR2 Gen 1 smart glasses hit the market, though, check out the best VR headsets you can (and should) buy right now.
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