Qualcomm updates its VR dev kit and launches accelerator

There’s a good chance Qualcomm already powers your smartphone, but the company wants to extend its mobile dominance to VR.

Most current mobile VR headsets require the user to slot their smartphone in – which is often a cumbersome experience. Particularly in China, standalone mobile VR headsets are gaining in popularity, and there’s a strong likelihood we’ll see a headset released this year by a major player such as HTC.

We see great potential for the exciting new experiences made possible

Qualcomm showcased its own reference design for a standalone mobile VR headset based on its Snapdragon 820 architecture last year. A successor based on the Snapdragon 835 has since been created which takes advantage of the processor's new features and power to improve the experience.

Four manufacturers based in China are looking to build their own headsets based on the latest reference design, but Qualcomm is launching an HMD (Head-Mounted Display) accelerator program to incentivise more companies to get on board. As part of the program, Qualcomm will provide companies with access to some of their supply chain partners as well as help with product marketing.

“The HMD Accelerator Program is designed to increase scale and lower the barriers for manufacturers to create a cutting-edge HMD effectively and efficiently with pre-validated components while meeting required VR performance criteria,” said Cristiano Amon, Executive Vice President of Qualcomm Technologies.

While the project was designed for VR headset manufacturing, Qualcomm says it will be expanded to help manufacturers looking to build AR headsets similar to HoloLens.

Along with the accelerator program announcement, Qualcomm has updated its development kit to include the Snapdragon 835 and its new features including:

  • DSP sensor fusion: Utilizing the full breadth of technologies built into Snapdragon 835, the new SDK helps allow developers to create more responsive and immersive experiences with six degrees of freedom (6DoF) by easily accessing the right combination of camera positional data along with high-frequency inertial data from gyroscopes and accelerometers via the Snapdragon Sensor Core and predictive head position processing with the Qualcomm® Hexagon™ DSP

  • Foveated rendering: Designed to provide enablement of a rendering technique useful for VR that senses the user’s gaze direction and then focuses on processing the maximum visual detail only in the region of interest, via new Snapdragon plugin support for both Unity and Epic Game Engines

  • Fast motion to photon: Supports improved asynchronous time warp with single buffer rendering and other techniques for fast transformation of rendered images in 3D space, which can help reduce latency by roughly 20% when compared to with previous Snapdragon products

  • Stereoscopic rendering with lens correction: Supports 3D binocular vision with color correction and barrel distortion for improved visual quality of graphics and video, enhancing the overall VR experience

  • VR layering: Generation of menus, text, and other overlays so that they render correctly in a virtual world, reducing distortions that would otherwise make them difficult to read

  • Advanced Application Profiling and Power management: Integration with Snapdragon Profiler and the Qualcomm® Symphony System Manager SDK to provide application developers with greater visibility into the VR processing pipeline, along with cohesive CPU, GPU, and DSP power and performance management to help achieve stable frame rates for VR applications running in low-power, thermally-constrained devices

“With this new VRDK, we’re providing virtual reality application developers with advanced tools and technologies to accelerate a new generation of VR games, 360-degree VR videos and a variety of interactive education, enterprise, healthcare, and entertainment applications,” explains Amon. “We see great potential for the exciting new experiences made possible by truly mobile, untethered virtual reality that’s always connected to the internet, and we’re excited to help mobile VR developers more efficiently deliver compelling and high-quality experiences on upcoming Snapdragon 835 VR-capable products.”

Qualcomm is aiming for a Q2 2017 launch for its updated VR developer kit, but the headset accelerator program is now live.

What are your thoughts on Qualcomm’s latest VR announcements? Let us know in the comments.

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