Qualcomm proclaims AR2 chip to pave the highway to the augmented actuality glasses of the long run

On the Snapdragon Summit, Qualcomm has simply made an announcement that I feel will probably be essential for the way forward for augmented actuality. The corporate has unveiled the Snapdragon AR2 Gen1 chip, which can energy the subsequent technology of slim augmented actuality glasses.

Unluckily I haven’t been in a position to go to Hawaii to benefit from the stay announcement (and luxuriate in some drinks on the seaside), however I attended a preview of the presentation devoted to the press, so I’m in a position to inform you all the pieces I’ve realized about this new chip, and why it’s so essential for me. Observe me, I promise you’ll get some juicy technical particulars, too!

What’s the Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1

Launch video of Snapdragon AR2 Gen1

AR2 Gen1 is the brand new chip that Qualcomm has designed particularly for augmented actuality glasses. Hugo Swart underlined that constructing AR glasses has very distinctive challenges that are completely different from constructing a VR headset or a hybrid MR/VR headset (just like the Quest Professional). The initially is the ability: you might want to devour very low energy, and in addition dissipate little or no of this energy as warmth. Then there may be the shape issue, which must be very small if we wish augmented actuality glasses to seem like normal sun shades. After all, to that, you need to add high-speed connectivity, high quality of visuals, and so on…

Because of this, utilizing the XR2 processor, which is so profitable amongst VR and MR headsets, just isn’t doable. You want a devoted unit, and that’s why Qualcomm has labored on Snapdragon AR2, which is an answer utterly devoted to AR.

There was an attention-grabbing query throughout the press convention about why can’t we simply use the AR2 for VR headsets, too, then. The reply has been that the AR2 can drive solely screens with decrease resolutions than XR2. So now you realize why there’s a want for 2 distinct strains of merchandise: one for VR/MR headsets and the opposite one for AR glasses.


qualcomm snapdragon ar2 vs xr2
Right here you may see the distinction in function between the XR line and the AR line. Sooner or later, an AR1 chipset could also be launched (Picture by Qualcomm)

The extra query will be “why this complicated identify?”. Properly, Qualcomm has lately modified its naming conference. Let’s begin from the best half: it’s a “Gen1” as a result of it hopes (and we hope, too) that there will probably be future fashions.

Concerning why “AR TWO” if it’s the first model, it’s as a result of Qualcomm is making an attempt to observe the identical conference it’s having with MR chipsets: the XR2 (and its variants) is the chip that powers essential units like Quest, Quest 2, and Quest Professional, whereas the XR1 is powering much less demanding headsets like as an illustration the Vive Stream. The AR2 is so meant to energy premium-quality augmented actuality glasses. Qualcomm could resolve sooner or later to create an AR1 chip to energy some type of AR smartglasses: think about one thing like Rayban Tales however with some light-weight AR options. This isn’t positive but, however it might occur, that’s why it stored on the AR line the identical numbering it’s having on the XR line.

The evolution of AR

I feel that the truth that an essential firm like Qualcomm has created a totally devoted line only for AR glasses is a good signal of the dedication it has in making an attempt to observe the trail that may lead us to have AR glasses we wish to put on all day. Hugo Swart confirmed throughout the presentation an important slide on this sense:

evolution ar glasses qualcomm
The timeline of AR units imagined by Qualcomm. It’s good to see that ranging from subsequent 12 months we’ll see extra light-weight AR glasses (Picture by Qualcomm)

I feel it summarizes very effectively the place we had been, the place we at the moment are, and the place we may very well be. To begin with, Qualcomm has very clear that now’s inconceivable to make AR glasses which might be absolutely standalone, however there may be the necessity for exterior computational energy. This can be native (a smartphone) or distant (through the cloud). After all, now the most well-liked one is through a smartphone connection. We’ve got all in thoughts the glasses related to the cellphone like Nreal mild, which have been the primary to indicate a modern design for augmented actuality. This has been step one for cell augmented actuality.

Then we have now seen a brand new reference design by Qualcomm that let you might have the identical connection, however wi-fi. This was nice as a result of it lastly eliminated the wire connected to your glasses, however truthfully talking, I’ve seen no profitable fully-AR glasses implementing this resolution. We had some smartglasses doing that, although: the Rayban Tales as an illustration work wirelessly with a cellphone and so they run over a Qualcomm chip.

In keeping with Qualcomm, the subsequent 2-3 years will see an additional evolution of this distributing processing paradigm. The glasses will begin implementing extra onboard processing energy, whereas nonetheless being slick. This can allow them to be far more environment friendly and performant, even when they’ll nonetheless want a smartphone to work, particularly to offer the rendering of the experiences. The AR2 chip matches precisely on this description: it provides new energy to the AR glasses, permitting performances that had been inconceivable earlier than.

After 2025, there will probably be new paradigms: in all probability we’ll begin coming into in the “5 to 10 years” timezone the place all the pieces turns into doable.

Qualcomm Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 3-chip design

Let’s get into the true deal of this chip: it’s not a chip, it’s 3 chips. I may make some jokes about it being “one and three”, however I’ll keep away from it for at present. The three chips are referred to as: AR Processor, AR Co-processor, and Connectivity.

Qualcomm Snapdragon AR2
The three components that compose the Qualcomm Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 system (Picture by Qualcomm)

I used to be kinda confused by why there was the necessity to separate this chip into three sub-chips, and the confusion incremented much more after I found that the three chips are scattered throughout the glasses: two chips are within the two temples, and the third is on the middle of the glasses, on the half that goes over your nostril.

Anyway as quickly as I used to be defined the explanations behind this design, all the pieces made whole sense to me. The explanations behind having three chips are:

  • A giant chip would make the frames too huge and hulking, whereas when you cut up it into a number of components it’s simpler to suit them inside a thinner body
  • A giant chip would generate an excessive amount of warmth, and this could be not good for the circuits and never good for the wearer, who would have a BBQ of 1 facet of his/her face
Sure, I’m silly and I make silly memes
  • Having a number of chips additionally scale back the wirings essential between the assorted components of the glasses, and this makes them extra environment friendly and thinner

So having distributed energy is the important thing. Now let’s see all these three chips intimately.

AR Processor

The AR Processor is the primary chip of the glasses, that’s their predominant mind. It’s constructed over a 4nm know-how and its predominant function is to perceive the atmosphere across the consumer and present the digital components in entrance of his/her eyes.

qualcomm snapdragon ar2
The interior structure of the Qualcomm Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 chip (Picture by Qualcomm)

The AR Processor’s predominant function is monitoring. It’s the one which analyzes the info of the cameras, discover the options, and reconstructs what’s the pose (rotation + place) of the glasses on the planet. We’ve been proven a video that compares the function detection capabilities of this chip in comparison with the earlier one, and the development was spectacular: the AR2 was in a position to detect far more options within the atmosphere. “Options” are particular picture factors that inside-out algorithms discover within the picture of the cameras and that they use for monitoring: the extra options, the extra the algorithm is exact and secure, so with this chip, monitoring is far more improved. In addition to being extra performant, it additionally consumed much less reminiscence and fewer energy.

Along with monitoring, it additionally is nice at doing all the pieces associated to atmosphere understanding, like as an illustration performing object detection or hand monitoring. It additionally helps recording of pictures and movies from the gadget.

For all of those computations, the AR processor helps as much as 9 cameras.

Chances are you’ll surprise why I’m not speaking about rendering right here. Properly, as a result of as I’ve defined earlier than, Qualcomm believes in distributing processing energy: if we wish the glasses to be light-weight, some functionalities needs to be offloaded to the smartphone. Rendering is the primary function that’s offloaded. The glasses so carry out no rendering of the digital components in any way.

However they nonetheless have to indicate the digital components on the display screen. And this operation is barely extra complicated than chances are you’ll assume. Contemplating that the glasses discuss wirelessly with the cellphone, there may be latency between the rendering request, when the body is definitely rendered, when it arrives again to the glasses, and when it’s proven on display screen. All these completely different latencies needs to be thought-about when exhibiting the picture in entrance of the eyes of the consumer, as a result of within the meantime his/her head, in fact, has moved. Because of this, the AR2 Processor contains a high-performant and power-efficient XR reprojection engine, which is ready to take the rendering body and remodel it in order that it’s proven the proper strategy to the consumer.

AR2 Connectivity

The Connectivity chip (powered by Qualcomm® FastConnect™ 7800) is poised to make the glasses hook up with the community, particularly to the Wi-Fi community that connects them to the glasses. This chip works with Wi-Fi 7 (which I didn’t even know existed) to scale back the latency of connection as much as 2ms. That is spectacular. Low latency is key to having distributed rendering and this chip helps so much in attaining it.

ar qualcomm snapdragon visual
From this render we will think about how AR2-based glasses can match on the pinnacle of an individual. They don’t seem like normal glasses but, however we’re shut (Picture by Qualcomm)

AR2 Co-processor

Okay, we have now the mind, and we have now the connectivity unit, why the heck do we want a 3rd processor? Properly, it seems it’s basic once more to make the glasses extra light-weight and thermal-efficient.

The AR2 Co-processor matches in the midst of the glasses, so it could possibly keep fairly near the attention monitoring sensors and in addition some cameras. All these sensors may very well be related on to it, which so can pre-process some data after which ship simply the outcomes on to the AR processors. As an illustration, the AR2 Co-processor has the duty of performing eye-tracking, foveated rendering, and iris authentication, so it could possibly join on to the eye-tracking cameras, that are near it, calculate the eyes’ rotations, after which ship simply this datum to the Processor.

Let me present the wiring system with and with out these co-processing unit. This may be the wiring of the glasses with out the Co-processor:

qualcomm augmented reality single chip
Discover how a lot wiring is required within the glasses to attach the sensors to the chip if there is just one chip (Picture by Qualcomm)

As you may see, there are plenty of wires, and a few of them have additionally to transmit plenty of information (like those related to the cameras). This implies different issues with thermal and particularly the dimensions of the frames. One explicit drawback that Hugo advised us is that one of the tough components to design when making AR glasses is the hinge: if you wish to make a foldable hinge, just like the one in all normal glasses, you will need to have only a few wires that undergo it. The co-processor helps with that: many sensors join on to it, after which from it, there are only a few wires that go to the primary Processor. This implies having fewer wires going via the hinges. You may see that on this different image:

Discover how the wiring has been impressively lowered because of the coprocessor (Picture by Qualcomm)

The Co-processor additionally helps the primary processor in being smaller, so it could possibly match higher contained in the frames.


Qualcomm snapdragon ar 2 gen 1 features
The principle options of the brand new Qualcomm Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 (Picture by Qualcomm)

Qualcomm claims that this new AR2 chip can provide a consumption inferior to 1W, which is a powerful consequence: it’s 50% much less energy than what’s utilized by the XR2. Additionally it is fairly highly effective: since AI is essential for AR (as a result of it depends so much on atmosphere understanding and sensor monitoring), this chip has been supercharged for AI and is 2.5x extra highly effective for AI if in comparison with the XR2.

Concerning dimensions, this new design is 40% smaller than the earlier AR viewer reference design primarily based on XR2.

qualcomm augmented reality single chip
A single chip would make the glasses too cumbersome (Picture by Qualcomm)
qualcomm ar2
Because of the usage of a distributed structure, the glasses frames will be thinner(Picture by Qualcomm)


Qualcomm is working with chosen OEMs to construct AR glasses primarily based on this chip. The names are the standard suspects: Lenovo, LG, Niantic, Nreal, Oppo, Pico, Qonoq, Rokid, Sharp, TCL, Vuzix, and Xiaomi. The primary glasses are within the works, however we should most likely wait till the second half of 2023 to see one in all them launched to the market. The identify “Pico” caught my consideration: which means that Bytedance/Pico is engaged on augmented actuality glasses, too, and it plans to compete with Meta additionally on that entrance.

Qualcomm Snapdragon AR2 can also be suitable with Snapdragon Areas, so it matches utterly the {hardware}+software program ecosystem that Qualcomm has been constructing these years.

Hugo Swart additionally talked about that there are new attention-grabbing partnerships with Adobe, Microsoft, and Niantic which might be going down, however he has not unveiled what they’re about. Niantic may very well be simpler, as a result of we already know it’s engaged on some form of XR glasses reference design. The opposite two are extra complicated: Adobe just isn’t a {hardware} firm, so perhaps it needs to launch its software program suite for AR glasses. And Microsoft may match with Qualcomm for its future AR glasses now that HoloLens is useless. However that is simply my hypothesis.

Microsoft has launched an official assertion about this collaboration, however it’s a type of sentences that imply nothing:

Microsoft labored intently with Qualcomm on the platform necessities for Snapdragon AR2 to assist outline the purpose-built, foundational applied sciences to unlock new prospects in AR experiences […] Snapdragon AR2 platform improvements will revolutionize headworn AR units that may remodel immersive productiveness and collaboration and we look ahead to seeing the innovation that Qualcomm and its companions will convey to market.

Rubén Caballero, Company Vice President of Blended Actuality, Gadgets & Expertise, Microsoft

Closing issues

Qualcomm Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 chip
An image of the chip (Picture by Qualcomm)

I’m fairly enthusiastic about this announcement as a result of it makes me see that there’s a path that may slowly lead us to have light-weight AR glasses that we will put on all day. We’re not there but, however we’re going there, and it appears that there’s a roadmap.

Additionally, the three-chips design is kind of unique and it’s good that there are artistic options in place to attempt to attain the purpose all of us have. I do know, this isn’t the primary glass that makes use of a number of chips, as an illustration, HoloLens additionally had a separate unit to carry out positional monitoring, however it’s the first time I see this on a Qualcomm reference design upon which many different glasses will probably be primarily based.

I can’t wait to see glasses primarily based on this reference design, and particularly to attempt them. I all the time repeat it on my weblog: headsets need to be evaluated on the pinnacle, and never on paper, and my latest expertise with the Quest Professional confirmed this much more (sure, a evaluate of it’s coming in just a few weeks). So I’d actually like to attempt an AR2-based gadget to see how good it’s, and consider the enhancements over the present designs (like Nreal Gentle).

The premises are anyway superb: the elimination of the tether and the improved monitoring performances are my favourite ones. I’m additionally curious concerning the FOV and backbone of those glasses, which being vendor-dependent, haven’t been revealed by Qualcomm. These, along with the value, will even be essential to grasp the long run success of those AR glasses. I assume we’ll all uncover extra about this in 2023.

For now, I simply take pleasure in this essential announcement, hoping it is going to be a stepping stone towards having widespread AR glasses!

(Header picture by Qualcomm)

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