If the existing strides in wireless technology were not mind-boggling enough, market leader Qualcomm decided to take it a step further with a demo of their wireless virtual reality development headset that works independent of a PC. Although the headset is still a prototype, it is all set to have amazing potential in taking the world of VR to a whole new level.
With its reference design as part of a second-generation of VR headsets, this prototype’s technology helps hardware companies move forward much faster and reach their VR goals much easier. In fact, thanks to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chip, at least 5 headset makers are all set to launch their VR headsets in 2017, incorporating some of the best features that the chip could possibly support.
Sign up for your weekly dose of what's up in emerging technology.
So what is the hype all about with the new development headset?
Well, to begin with, you can use the device absolutely untethered, with all the major work happening right within the headset itself. This means that you can walk wherever you want within the defined radius, and you’re not limited by connectivity. You get much better graphics than this headset’s predecessors, improved performance per watt and motion-to-photon latency is improved by as much as 20%. Added to all of this, the accelerator also comes with improved single-buffer rendering performance and seamless interaction with sensors.
As far as using the headset goes, the development headset was less bulky than most present ones. It offered 5 hours of battery life, thanks to its 3600 milliamp-hour battery. However, the battery life may vary based on the content. The headset is all set to come out with a software kit and a hardware version with 6 degrees of motion tracking. Just in front of the eyes is a large bar that has a couple of sensors that can detect movement – more specifically your hand and finger movement.
This means that when using the headset, there is no need to use a controller, thanks to Leap Motion’s controller-freehand tracking software. This software is included in Qualcomm’s reference design kit, making it possible for other companies to continue using it under their brand if they wish. A sensor is available for hand tracking, and this too is option if the headset manufacturers decided to use it. It is not really expensive and is quite light, making it a rather good feature to include without much hassle.
Coming to resolution
Resolution is rather good although the tracking on the development headset was not perfectly precise. There is still the need to include force feedback since there is no sense of touch when picking up objects, for example. This means that some movements and actions are not as precise as you may want it to be. So obviously, the development headset is still a job in progress and we are sure to see some major improvements with the final products that are set to launch soon.
Although Qualcomm’s demo headset was much smaller than many other prototypes, the Snapdragon 835 is quite powerful and sleek. Despite its sleekness, it power-packed a 4-megapixel WQHD AMOLED display along with 6 degrees of freedom motion tracking into it, along with 2 monochromatic 1-megapixel global shutter cameras. You can use it with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or USB 3.1 and enjoy its 4GB RAM with 64 GB Flash UFS. Audio, too, was pretty neat – Qualcomm’s Aqstic audio codec, which was perfectly, complemented with a track-pad to the right for control and I/O functionalities.
Heralding the second generation of VR hardware
Although the development headset is just a preview of things to come, it does speak a lot about the strides that VR has been taking, especially in the recent past. Qualcomm has certainly spurred on the advancement of this technology and is heralding the second generation of VR hardware with great gusto. This is a good thing because the first generation of this technology didn’t really get sufficient traction to sustain multiple players in the game and was limited more or less to just the big boys in the industry and a very limited consumer base.
Now, though, this is all set to change and change is just around the corner. It is going to be quite interesting to see Qualcomm takes this further with additional changes to its new chip. The demo headset was just a reference model that was showcased at the GDC. There is much more to come and the market is starting to prove that the future is more mobile. The power of the Snapdragon 835 is all set to be tested to its fullest in the months to come. In fact, Osterhout Design Group is on the brink of creating two augmented reality smart glass models with this processor – so we can only wait up and see whether this is a preview of a few steps or massive leaps forward in the world of VR.