Meet the Qualcomm chips powering Meta’s Quest 3 headset

Meet the Qualcomm chips powering Meta’s Quest 3 headset

Alan Truly holds a display model of Qualcomm's Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chip.
A display model of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 chip. Tracey Truly

Qualcomm just announced two new Snapdragon chips, one that significantly increases the performance available for next-generation VR headsets and another that expands the capabilities of new smart glasses.

The Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 takes over from the original XR2 chip. Qualcomm launched the XR2 Gen 1 in 2020 and it quickly became the processor of choice for almost all VR and XR headset manufacturers with advanced tracking capabilities.

Qualcomm announced the AR2 Gen 1 in 2022, but we haven’t seen them in glasses yet. We now know that Qualcomm has made progress on the chip that will significantly improve the capabilities of affordable smart glasses. When AR2 Gen 1 glasses launch, likely in 2024, it will bring us closer to the full potential of augmented reality glasses.

Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 brings VR power

Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 offers these features.
Qualcomm

After a three-year gap in updates, it’s no surprise that the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 brings remarkable gains in speed and efficiency. Qualcomm claims it delivers 2.5x better GPU performance than the XR2 Gen 1, while delivering 50% better power efficiency. AI performance is eight times better.

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The Snapdragon This will also allow VR headsets to run multitasking apps and games faster than ever.

This could equate to better image quality, faster frame rates, longer battery life, lighter VR headsets, or more sensors. The combination of these improvements depends on each manufacturer’s design goals.

The Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 moves visual analytics from software to silicon for faster, more accurate tracking. Qualcomm’s press conference included video of people playing ping pong with real rackets, a table and a ball, while wearing VR headsets. Latency of around 12 milliseconds lets you move quickly in mixed reality without major lag.

The new Qualcomm chip will support up to 3K by 3K resolution, with built-in super resolution, foveal rendering and space warping. If you’re not familiar with these last three terms, they are all techniques that improve graphics quality without slowing down the frame rate.

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The Snapdragon This should improve the quality and reliability of streaming content and wireless PC VR connections.

Meta’s new Quest 3 VR headset is the first to benefit from the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2, unlocking more exciting gaming and mixed reality experiences. (link to Meta Quest 3 hands-on)

Since the Snapdragon XR2 Gen 2 brings significant performance gains, other standalone VR headset makers will be eager to launch competing solutions. It’s an exciting time for virtual reality.

Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1 makes glasses smarter

Qualcomm Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1 supports these features.
Qualcomm

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1 will make smart glasses smarter, adding some AR features we’ve been waiting for.

Until now, smart glasses used low-power chips designed for watches or high-powered VR chips like the XR2 Gen 1. Smart watch processors limit the capabilities of smart glasses and VR chips are not efficient enough for Lightweight and durable smart glasses.

The Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1 should make smart glasses much more useful, adding on-glass AI that manufacturers can use for real-time translations, visual search, and noise cancellation.

Qualcomm claims that image capture from devices with this chip can be as good as what you get with your smartphone. 12MP resolution photos with built-in HDR should bring a significant improvement in quality.

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However, the video resolution of the Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 is only 6MP. You’ll still need to carry your smartphone to get the best videos. The first-person perspective and instant access of smart glasses makes a compelling argument for photo and video-enabled glasses.

Qualcomm chips have capabilities that often remain untapped. The Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1 supports audio-only, single, and stereo displays. If the smart glasses include displays, the chip supports a resolution of up to 1280 x 1280 per eye.

Tracking supports three degrees of freedom (3DoF), so virtual objects remain fixed in space around you when you turn your head, but travel with you when you walk. The AR2 Gen 1 features more advanced 6DoF tracking that anchors virtual objects as you move.

Wi-Fi 7 and Bluetooth 5.2 and 5.3 support fast connectivity without draining battery life. The chip also supports fitness sensors, opening the door to smart glasses replacing smart watches.

Qualcomm worked closely with Meta on the Snapdragon AR1 Gen 1, and it’s the processor used in the second-generation Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses.

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