If companies are going to make augmented reality glasses you'd actually want to wear, they'll need chips that are powerful but won't require a large battery on your head. Qualcomm thinks it can help. The company has unveiled a Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 platform that's built with slim AR glasses in mind. The multi-chip design reportedly delivers 2.5 times the AI performance of the company's XR2-based reference design while using half the power. You could have eyewear that intelligently detects objects in the room while remaining slim and light enough to use for hours at a time.
Part of the trick is to spread the computing load across the glasses' frame, Qualcomm says. The primary, 4nm-based AR processor includes a CPU, Tensor AI processing, graphics and engines for features like visual analytics. It can support up to nine simultaneous cameras for tracking both your body and the world around you. A co-processor elsewhere in the glasses includes an AI accelerator for tasks like eye tracking and computer vision, while a third chip handles connectivity to networks and phones. This not only better-balances the weight, but leads to smaller circuit boards and fewer wires than you'd see with a single do-it-all chip.
That networking is also important, Qualcomm says. Like Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 in phones, AR2 Gen 1 is one of the first platforms to support WiFi 7. That's crucial not just to provide the gobs of bandwidth for connecting to a handset (up to 5.8Gbps), but to reduce latency (under 2ms to your phone, according to Qualcomm). Combined with lag reduction in the processor and co-processor, you should have a more natural-feeling and responsive experience.
Hardware built on AR2 Gen 1 is in "various stages" of progress at multiple well-known companies, including Lenovo, LG, Nreal, Oppo and Xiaomi. Importantly, Microsoft had a hand in the platform requirements. Don't be surprised if you're one day using AR2 for virtual collaboration in Mesh, not to mention other Microsoft apps and services.
Qualcomm has also introduced meaningful updates to its audio technology. New S3 Gen 2 Sound and S5 Gen 2 Sound platforms promise to make the latest listening tech more commonplace, including spatial audio with head tracking, lower latency for games and the latest take on adaptive active noise cancellation (think of the transparency modes found on some earbuds). You won't see real-world products until the second half of 2023, but these chips could democratize features that were previously reserved for pricier buds and headphones.