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November 16, 2022 Qualcomm unveiled its new Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 Platform at Snapdragon Summit 2022 in Hawaii today. The new chipset will enable distributed processing, which mixes data processed locally on the smart glasses with compute from the cloud. This expands computing power, and lowers heat at the same time. The use of Wi-fi 7 will for the first time ensure the operation is latency free.

The new chipset is optimized for development in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces, purpose built for Qualcomm’s foundational AR pipeline to fully utilize the features of the chipset and sensors.

As with other Snapdragon chipset introductions, the company has created a reference design to enable OEMs to take full advantage of the capability the new purpose-built for AR chip enables: (1) multi-chip distributed processing architecture (2) Nine cameras/sensors (3) WiFi 7 (4) upgrades to Snapdragon Spaces, the company’s development platform optimized for the features, from AI to eye tracking.

“We built Snapdragon AR2 to address the unique challenges of headworn AR and provide AI and connectivity that can fit inside a stylish form factor,” said Hugo Swart, vice president of XR product management, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “The next three years are going to bring exponential change in AR.”

Qualcomm’s distributed AR processing architecture better balances the weight, decreasing the arm width of the wings, and dissipating heat by putting multiple processors in different locations on the frames. At the same time, Snapdragon AR2 dynamically offloads more complex data processing requirements to a Snapdragon-powered smartphone, PC or to other compatible host device. Using Wi-Fi 7 (a first for such a device) latency gives the device more processing power. Moor Insights & Strategy Principal Analyst, Anshel Sag also added, “Technological advances like Wi-Fi 7 are enabling more distributed XR experiences, like Qualcomm’s AR2. The Snapdragon AR2 platform is the first step needed along many more steps to get the AR glasses segment where it needs to be in terms of weight, battery life, thermals and performance.”

“AR is one level deeper than VR,” said Swart in a press briefing last week. “It presents a combination of challenges, particularly power and the challenge of putting perception technologies in such a small platform. Co-processors optimized for AI in the AR technology stack aggregate camera and sensor data. Eye tracking for foveated rendering optimizes graphic workloads by rendering images only where the user is looking. Swart said “Snapdragon AR2 represents another metaverse-defining platform in our XR portfolio to help our OEM partners revolutionize AR glasses.”

Qualcomm powers 60+ XR (AR and VR) devices, including Meta’s Quest, Pico, and the Microsoft Hololens. The two exceptions are the Magic Leap 2 and Apple, whose XR device is rumored to launch in 2023.

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