Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845 VRDK, a VR headset reference design for hardware and software developers, is now offering 6DOF controller input with ultrasonic tracking.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 VDRK is essentially a starting point for companies who want to build their own standalone VR headsets to offer to customers; the reference headset offers a number of options which can be customized to taste. Options like hand-tracking and eye-tracking have made their way into the offering, and now ultrasonic tracking for 6DOF controller input is available, as noted in a press release by Goertek, the manufurating partner of the Snapdragon 845 VRDK.

Consumer headsets like the Oculus Go, Lenovo Mirage Solo, and HTC Vive Focus are all based on earlier versions of the Snapdragon VRDK, but none of them offer 6DOF controller tracking. 6DOF controller tracking means that the controller can be tracked through 3D space (just like high-end tethered VR headsets), which leads to a significantly more immersive VR experience. The aforementioned headsets only support 3DOF controller tracking, which means only the rotation of the controller is sensed, limiting the feeling of truly having your hands in VR.

6DOF controllers on standalone headsets have been a tough nut to crack because of the difficulties of achieving a large sensing volume without external sensors, and because of the power and compute constraints of mobile hardware compared to PC hardware.

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While Oculus has been working on an optical 6DOF controller tracking approach on their Santa Cruz prototype, Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon VRDK hopes to solve the problem with ultrasonic tracking, which uses inaudible sound waves to triangulate the position of an object in space. The latest images of the reference headset show what appear to be six ultrasonic emitters (and/or receivers) on the headset, three on each side. These would be used to either send or receive ultrasonic signals to corresponding controllers, while differences in timing from each of the signals is used to calculate position, which would likely be fused with rotational data from an onboard IMU.

Image courtesy Qualcomm

Ultrasonic tracking is not new by any means; we’ve seen VR trackers based on the technology in recent years, and the tech was employed for similar purposes long before the modern era of VR. Pico Neo was one of the first modern standalone headsets we’ve seen using ultrasonic tracking for 6DOF input, though our hands-on with the headset earlier this year didn’t inspire much confidence in the controller tracking.

Generally speaking, the capabilities of ultrasonic tracking have been considered insufficient as a head-tracking solution for high-end VR headsets, though hand-tracking is less sensitive to latency and accuracy, and could prove effective with the right implementation. The Pico Neo solution was developed by Chirp Microsystems, and while the headset is based on an earlier version of the Snapdragon VRDK, it isn’t clear if the latest reference headset is using the same system (we’ve reached out for confirmation from Goertek). The Pico Neo appears to be using three front-facing emitters/receivers on the headset compared to six on the 845 VRDK, which are placed on the front and sides of the device; it remains to be seen what impact this could have on the controller tracking quality.

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New standalone headsets based on the Snapdragon 845 VRDK are expected to start popping up in the second half of 2018, though it’ll be up to each company to decide if they want to include ultrasonic 6DOF controller tracking with their headset.

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  • VR Geek

    I am looking forward to this more than anything right now. Oculus Go and other 3DOF VR is so not want people want IMO as they already have it with their phones if they want for the most part.

    • Courtney A Jeff

      Sweet,3do has a vr?

  • Courtney A Jeff

    Gameboy has full tracking.Praise Jesus my Lord and Savior.

  • Tyrus Gail

    Mobile VR? NO!!! Even hi-end PC VR looks like poor crap. Who will buy this? Are they really so stupid? VR with resolution below 4k (per eye) its a dead end!
    It looks so bad, that no one will choose this, instead of modern TV/monitor/smartphone screen.
    If we don’t have enough gpu power it’s time to humbly admit, that VR dream is dead for another 5-10 years. and leave it alone – or just loose money.

    • dk

      rift/old vive both have less ppi than a gearvr/daydream/cardboard
      and the vive focus is as much res as the vive pro
      and today’s desktop vr already feels like a different reality and it will only get better
      …….and the next gen gpus r coming also eye tracking is coming

    • Ted Joseph

      Tell that to the happy customers of gear VR. In my opinion, the market segment should include simple, stand alone headsets 3DOF and 6DOF, higher cost/perfomance headsets (aka Pro, PiMax, etc.) and AR.

    • Brian Burgess

      Have you tried VR? And if so, what VR headset did you use and what game did you play? I ask because I own an Oculus, and while the resolution is not on par with TV’s yet, it is good enough that it does not impede immersion. I literally do not play regular games anymore sense getting the Rift, and I know others who are the same.

      VR will only get better, but what is available today is literally life changing.

    • brandon9271

      We’re just now getting a few killer apps for PC VR after many years. Mobile seems like a step backwards but who knows. Maybe they’re hoping mobile VR will take off because of porn. Maybe the VR equivalent of Candy Crush is right around the corner and soccer moms around the world will by one of these.

    • G-man

      oh no, the games dont look photo realistic oh no, its a dead end. nothing productive or fun happens if thing dont meet tyrus’ standards. pack it up people.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      bullshit about resolution below 4K per eye is a dead end. man, don’t be such a snob.. Current VR is great for gaming, unless you’re a moron who only stares at the pixels instead of just enjoying the games.
      Yes 4K per eye will make it look better, but it certainly doesn’t make the games better.

    • Maybe spend some time taking a few writing classes since I am pretty sure writing isn’t a dead end. Also, it is “lose money,” not “loose money.” Unless you feel that developers have a lot of “loose” money to be investing in this crap.

      Frankly I am more annoyed of what we are expecting so early in the product cycle? Maybe I am just too old in remembering flipping toggle switches and making a string of LEDs strobe back & forth and whispering “cooooool,” knowing for just a few hundred dollars for some ICs, I was able to do something that took tens of thousands of dollars and the space for a refrigerator just a few years earlier.

      I also had the same “cooool” experience with my TI-59 when I was able to program an auto-lander to the included “Mars Lander” on a mag strip, who’s readout consisted of a dozen 7-segment displays. I know I sound like the proverbial tech “grandpa” sitting in his rocking chair reminding you whipper-snappers what it was like to trudge in three feet of snow to our one room school with the wood heater in the middle of the winter*, but jeez stop whining and enjoy the ride, and be glad you don’t have CRTs strapped to your head.

      *I am not that old, but I did trudge through three feet of school not because I had to, but because I wanted to because it was fun and besides who wanted to look like the sissy boy who had to have his mom drive him to school because of a little snow. Right?

  • Liam Mulligan

    There are entire industries that will be formed with the right standalone capability. 6dof is the only logical push fwd, without proper input then we are back to square one as a floating head. It is a cha llenge but like all the others to date minus locomotion it will likely be solved quite soon.

  • rabs

    Windows MR shows that low cost 2 camera system works well enough in most cases. Don’t know why they don’t use that for mobile VR.

    Maybe the controllers are considered too big, with all the marks required for the visual tracking.

    • silvaring

      Thats a good point, constellation tracking does require big bulky sections on the top of the controller. Maybe ultra sonic will be better to implement into glove controllers than optical tracking?

    • Andrew Jakobs

      The headset uses the same type of tracking. It’s the controllers which have this kind of tracking (through the headset)..

  • edzieba

    From past experience with Ultrasonic tracking, things that

    cannot be in the same environment include: Flat hard surfaces (uncovered windows, mirrors, glass pictureframes, parquet floors, tiled floors), keys (or any jingling metal, produces huge amounts of ultrasonic noise), CCFL lighting, many cheaper LED bulbs, Machinery with moving parts with metal-on-metal contact (e.g. some printers, electric canopeners), CRTs, and any power tools or pneumatics.

    • Sponge Bob


      this is hand controller tracking – no flat hard surface neaby other than headset itself which can be made of sound absorbing material and your hands

      There is negligible environmental ultrasonic noise in very narrow band of say 40Khz other than the noise coming from e.g. another controller

      Reflections from hard surfaces are big problem indeed, but for hand tracking relative to headset its not that big of a problem

  • Great news… the more 6 DOF mobile headsets with 2 6DOF controllers, the better

  • Sven Viking

    So is the headset itself 6DOF? Using optical tracking?

    • silvaring

      The two cameras on the front would indicate that yeah.

      • Sven Viking

        Vive Pro has two cameras on the front just for pass-through video :), but yeah that would be silly. Thanks.

        • silvaring

          I wasnt being sarcastic. It would make sense for 6DOF because Qualcomm use the cameras in their previous standalones to make the headset 6DOF.

          • Sven Viking

            I mean it would be silly to have two cameras on the front of a mobile headset only for pass-through video, so was agreeing with you. I hadn’t noticed the cameras when I wrote my original comment.

          • silvaring

            Ok no worries, thats text for you, sometimes very hard to gauge tone without a smiley face attached :)

          • Sven Viking

            Interestingly it turns out Vive Pro doesn’t use the stereo cameras for anything yet. Only the right camera is used for pass-through at the moment.

          • brandon9271

            That’s hilarious. Such a steep price and they don’t even have all the features working yet.

          • Sven Viking

            As of the RoadToVR review they were also having a problem with bass on their built-in headphones and were working in a fix. Not sure how that happened exactly.

  • silvaring

    Thanks for clarifying the details of how many trackers were on the Pico Neo (3) vs. this new Snapdragon 845 kit (6)… great job RoadtoVR keep up the solid work.

  • Sponge Bob

    The small holes in a headset are ultrasonic receivers, not emitters

    Pico Neo’s 3 receivers from Chirp Microsystems are not like single mics – they are tiny integrated arrays calculating direction of ultrasonic pulse arrival by measuring time differences of the arrival times – all on one chip, making 3 integrated chips in total

    Quallcoms’ 6 receivers *might be* like single MEMs mics (or piezo transducers)
    with associated circuitry for measuring time of arrival integrated on a semiconductor chips possibly made by Triad Semiconductor but requiring further processing by onboard processor or microcontroller


    Can you confirm who makes those receivers for Qualcomm VRDK ?

    Without quality component supplier these designs are DOA

  • I guess no one here jumped on the NOLO bandwagon. Interesting concept to provide 6DOF using a stationary base unit that emitted infrared and ultrasound pulses to be detected by round orbs (one for the HMD, one for each hand controller) that had a combination of infrared detectors and ultrasonic mics. Sadly unless you mounted the base on the ceiling, you basically had a standard Oculus Rift setup. Its Android Unity SDK worked but it had lag. I bought in during the Kickstarter , then they launched it with a price twice that of $199 but it is sold out now.

    https://www.nolovr.com/ (Energy beam not included)

    • Sponge Bob

      Nolo is useless for standalone headset – needs a massive basestation (with rotating thing inside) – cant strap it to your head
      The only advantage of Nolo is that it needs just ONE basestation so no calibration is needed
      At 199$ its grossly overpriced for what it does