Qualcomm is a leader in mobile technologies, and naturally, its processors are popular in mixed reality headsets like the Meta Quest (formerly Oculus Quest). But what about AR glasses? Well, Qualcomm now confirms that it’s working with three companies to develop Snapdragon-powered smart glasses, and it’s even published a “reference design” to prepare us for the future.
The new “Wireless AR Smart Viewer Reference Design,” which is quite a mouthful, runs on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 Gen 1 chipset. It packs two 90Hz FHD micro-OLED displays, three cameras, and head-tracking software to “enable immersive experiences that unlock the metaverse.”
But more importantly, the new reference product is completely wireless. It uses Wi-Fi 6E and the FastConnect 6900 system to pair with a phone, which handles some processing and rendering for the glasses. (The drawback, of course, is that only newer flagship phones support FastConnect 6900 hardware.)
It may not sound like a big deal, but Qualcomm is trying to prove that ergonomic, lightweight AR glasses are right around the corner. You can’t develop a comfortable and advanced pair of AR glasses using current technology—this stuff requires a second device (a phone, a PC, or cloud servers) to help handle processing. If manufacturers opt for Snapdragon chips, they can go wireless with minimal consequence.
At least, that’s the theory. Qualcomm admits that early mixed reality hardware, like the first smartphones, will have its problems. And one such problem may be battery life. Qualcomm predicts that the glasses’ 650mAh battery will last around 30 minutes with continuous use.
We expect several companies to launch lightweight AR glasses in the next few years, including Microsoft, which will reportedly use Qualcomm chips. Notably, Apple is rumored to launch its AR glasses (which require an iPhone for co-processing) later this year.