Qualcomm today revealed new reference designs for VR and AR headsets powered by its new Snapdragon XR2 chip. Complete with hand-tracking, magnetic controller tracking, eye-tracking, and more, the Qualcomm reference designs are a glimpse of what’s to come in AR and VR over the next year or two.

Qualcomm has been a quiet enabler of most major standalone AR and VR headsets on the market today. The company has its Snapdragon chips in more than 30 headsets—including major devices like Oculus Quest, Oculus Go, HoloLens 2, and Vive Focus—and it has its fingerprints on many of these headsets through the fruits of its HMD Accelerator Program which provides reference designs that act as blueprints for companies to quickly bring VR and AR headsets to market.

Today the company revealed its latest VR and AR headset reference designs which now include the company’s powerful new Snapdragon XR2 chip. The reference designs give us a clear idea of the specs and capabilities of standalone headsets that we’re likely to see over the next year or two.

The working XR2 reference design, also known as the VRDK, is a larger headset which serves as a testbed for partners to evaluate different features and capabilities. It’s bulky and quite basic looking, for ease of production, but crammed with features for testing.

Late last year Qualcomm gave us a good idea of the kind of specs and features we could expect to see from VR headsets based on XR2; namely: displays up to 3K × 3K per eye @ 90Hz, integrated 5G connectivity, support for seven simultaneous camera feeds, and significantly more processing power across the board compared to Snapdragon 835 (one of the most common chipsets found in current standalone headsets, including Quest).

Image courtesy Qualcomm

The company added today that the XR2 reference design can support controllerless hand-tracking (likely from Ultraleap), Atraxa magnetic controller tracking, and Tobii eye-tracking. While no one headset is likely to include everything, the features exist in the reference design for partners to evaluate and consider for inclusion in future headsets.

Qualcomm also showed off prototype industrial design references (one for VR and one for AR) which offer a glimpse of the kind of form-factors the company believes could be achieved for commercial products based on the XR2 reference design.

Qualcomm is also touting a “comprehensive, end-to-end solution” for cloud-rendered VR delivered over a 5G network. While the company had spoken about the possibility of cloud VR before, this is the first time it’s telling partners that it has all the pieces in place for anyone who wants to attempt to deliver a product built around the concept. Even if it all works in theory, such a device won’t really be feasible until 5G networks and (more importantly) EDGE computing are widely deployed.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Ted Joseph

    We are one step closer to the AR/VR “Visor”… Speed up! :)

  • I hope these reference designs lead to more headset! Hopefully Qualcomm can do better than Microsoft did with Mixed Reality…

    • Gerald Terveen

      They are in a race with Facebook and Apple that likely both have some specialized chip designs in the works. No matter how these early rounds go, these are the future markets that Qualcomm will fight for!

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Don’t count on Facebook to have their own specialized chip designs, they have been using Quallcomm chips up till now, so I also believe they will be using the XR2 for their next incarnation..

        • Mei Ling

          Most likely the next Quest will involve a partnership with Qualcomm again, possibly a customized version of the XR2 or even the XR3 ahead of everyone else.

          Facebook have more than enough money to develop their own chips but still very unlikely they’d go in that direction.

  • I’m curious about the cost of a headset based on this reference design. The only one we know until now is Lynx R-1, that costs $1500! Is this XR2 only for enteprise?

    • LarryJones

      The Lynx R-1 has nothing to do with this reference design other than using a XR2 chip.

  • 3872Orcs

    This is exciting! But who else then Oculus can pull off a really good headset based on this and also have a large storefront with games and software?

    • Apple.

      • Miqa

        The same could be said for Microsoft or Google. Look how far that has gotten…

        • Immersive Computing

          Google actually had a decent amount of daydream applications with some real standouts – often exclusives, perhaps some had funding assistance.

          And of course integration with YouTube VR and Google photos plus Firefox Reality and Chrome VR, so seamless access to media content.

        • Except that Microsoft is on record as saying
          they’re not at all interested in VR, and Google
          has already very publicly failed at it with “DaydreamVR”.
          “F-” for effort ….

      • kontis

        Apple will never make typical VR googles.

        They will try hard to do something “cool looking” like AR glasses, even if it initially has terrible FOV and is not very practical. First iPhone was in many ways a huge downgrade in the smartphone world, no MMS, no multitasking, no keyboard, no videocalls, no cards slot, walled garden ecosystem etc. Remember the iPhone vs rock mocking comparisons?
        It didn’t matter, though.

        The tech is not ready for what Apple want so they doesn’t have to rush it.

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      • NooYawker

        Apple will just create another closed system like Facebook.

      • Anfronie


        • THE HELL YOU SAY!!

          • Anfronie

            You kind sir can get ta steppin!

    • adsf

      i take it your not mentioning valve cause they are not standalone otherwise they have all of that

  • ShaneMcGrath

    Would love to see Samsung make a new Odyssey 2 with this chip, Increase FOV to 130 and add optional wireless adapter and I’m sold on day one.

  • timothytripp

    Does anyone know the price of the XR2 chip itself for manufacturers? That information seems incredibly hard to find.

  • Jim P

    Wish the new Quest would use the new chip. Just think of what they could do with it. Look what they milked out of a old chip.