Qualcomm today revealed a new ‘VRDK’ standalone reference headset based on their Snapdragon 845 chip. The reference design—which serves as a blueprint for Qualcomm customers who may want to build their own VR headsets based on the design—boasts an impressive set of specifications.

Qualcomm’s prior 835 VDRK is the seed from which most of today’s major standalone VR headsets were born, including the Vive Focus, Mirage Solo, and Pico Neo. The new 845 VRDK, which at its core is based on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chip, is likely to spawn a future batch of standalone VR headsets with improved performance and capabilities.

Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 ‘System on a chip’ combines specialized compute functions into a single chip | Image courtesy Qualcomm

Companies building headsets based on the 845 VRDK may make changes to the reference design before creating their own product, but the VDRK essentially represents the best of what Qualcomm can offer to those companies, and their latest headset is quite impressive on paper.

In addition to a claimed 30% increase in graphics performance & power efficiency, and twice as much display throughput compared to the 835 VDRK, the new 845 VRDK offers eye-tracking and Qualcomm’s own ‘Adreno Foveation’ solution, which renders in high resolution at the center of your vision where you can see in high detail, while reducing the detail outside of that region, thus dedicating more of the headset’s rendering resources to where they’re most needed.

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Eye-tracking is a Game Changer for VR That Goes Far Beyond Foveated Rendering

Eye-tracking and foveated rendering solutions within the VR landscape have been in the works for several years, but it’s proved a challenging nut to crack. Though promising progress has been made, so far we haven’t seen any consumer-available VR headsets with inbuilt eye-tracking. We’ll be interested to see if Qualcomm has managed to pull it off.

Beyond eye-tracking and performance & power improvements, Qualcomm claims the 845 VRDK is capable of pushing some impressive resolutions, up to 2,000 × 2,000 pixels per eye, at, According to Android Authority, 120Hz. That’s the rendering potential, though it isn’t clear exactly what resolution of display (or displays) are present in the 845 VDRK; we’ve reached out to Qualcomm for confirmation.

The current top-of-the-line displays used in consumer VR headsets, like Samsung’s Odyssey, top out at 1,600 × 1,440 per eye, so it isn’t clear if an appropriate 2,000 × 2,000 display yet exists to take advantage of that horsepower, but presumably the 845 VDRK is ready and waiting (and in the meantime, hopefully using any GPU overhead for supersampling).

Image courtesy Qualcomm

Like previous versions of the VDRK, the new model uses a pair of on-board cameras for inside-out positional tracking, meaning you don’t need external sensors for the headset to be able to track your movement through space. New for the 845 though appears to be the addition of SLAM—Simultaneous Location And Mapping—which Qualcomm says “maps and detects obstacles in the user’s physical [world],” and allows for “integration real-world objects into the virtual world.”

Expect to see new standalone VR headsets announced later this year which are based on the 845 VRDK.

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  • Duane Aakre

    Foveated rendering is definitely one of the next things we need. I’ve read they are going to be showing this next week in Barcelona, so I hope it is a functional model and that we will get some reports on how well it works.

    I wish instead of two fwd-facing cameras for positional tracking that they could have managed a couple more cameras to better extend the coverage around the sides for motion controllers.

    • Guest

      There will never be “any consumer-available VR headsets with inbuilt eye-tracking” unless everyone pays for an optometrist to custom calibrate it for them. Its just another marketing bullet-point like AI for the hypsters to check off!

      • Stefan Küppers

        what if its an ai calibrated sollution ? ;)

      • dk

        calibrate what …..the only thing the system needs to know is the ipd …..haven’t u seen multiple people demo the same headset with eye tracking
        if low latency eye tracking works great and the rendering software has been figured out and it doesn’t add latency …..ordering prescription lenses if your glasses don’t fit in the hmd and u r not sure about your prescription ….that would require u to check with a doctor……not eye tracking
        ….or am I missing something
        all calibrations r done by the software except for the ipd ……so u need a great not just good software…..if the system knows the ipd it can figure out on its own if u have a slightly lazy eye …..hell it could even help u exercise it

      • You mean adjusting IPD? Again, Fove.

      • daveinpublic

        I’m sure there’s a way to create ‘consumer-available VR headsets with inbuilt eye-tracking’. Facebook showed us something similar like a year or two ago, and said that was the goal, and since they’ve already thrown hundreds of millions at VR, I’m sure they wouldn’t tease that if it wasn’t somehow feasible.

      • First, sorry for my English. The problem is in size and shape of pupils, whitch is diffrent across diffrent people. It may sound funny in context od your post… but an AI is the answer xD. You can’t just simply program pupils off all the people around the world, as you can’t program all models of cars when you are writing software to detect cars. You use AI, or some form of it. Also, an AI can improve with time and “get used to” a specific user, in this case to specific eyes.

      • Andrew Jakobs

        Calibrating eyetracking isn’t that difficult if you have the technical experience these developmentteams have. It’s not like they don’t know what they are doing. Foveated rendering will be crude anyway for now as it still requires a lot of processing power. Simple eyetracking isn’t difficult.

  • Lucio Lima

    Fove ????

    • benz145

      Fove is only presently offered as a development kit.

      • Mei Ling

        “Eye-tracking and foveated rendering solutions within the VR landscape have been in the works for several years, but it’s proved a challenging nut to crack.”

        Eye tracking sufficient enough for foveated rendering has already been solved.

        • Downvote King

          “Though promising progress has been made, so far we haven’t seen any consumer-available VR headsets with inbuilt eye-tracking.”

          Literally the next line after the one you quoted. This seems clearly what they’re talking about; they’ve reported numerous times on this very site about many other eye-tracking developments – including FOVE.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          Yes, and inside out tracking was also already longer on the market but only was actually better/practical with the current MR-headsets and still needs improvement.

  • NooYawker

    All the seeds are planted, exciting stuff for sure. But how powerful can a stand alone be? It still has to deal with the same issues portables have, power, heat, weight.

    • Laurence Nairne

      I think only power is a problem with a wall in the way. The other two are solvable, or can at least be mitigated.

      In terms of power, I tend to be on the side of John Cormack when he said that it’s for software developers to work within the constraints of the hardware and create something amazing – that’s always been the case, and always will be.

      Sure power is limited by mobile technology, but eventually we’d hit a wall with standard computing as well, it’s the simple maths of trying to downsize transistors and pack more in, eventually they cannot become any smaller.

      I think bar the obvious limitations and problems inherent in VR hardware at the moment, a big problem is creativity in this space. We’re still working out what a core VR experience looks like – don’t get me wrong, there have been some good games and experiences made, but very few of them feel like they were born to be experienced in VR, more that they were put in VR because ‘why not?’.

  • Till Eulenspiegel

    All these standalone VR devices were expected to launch late last year but they either dropped out or were delayed until Spring this year. I am beginning to think it has something to do with Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ – they were waiting for the movie to release, to create a hype for VR.

    • mellott124

      Or the tech couldn’t live up to the hype. Much more likely of an explanation.

  • oompah

    Fine but still not so realistic i believe .
    For the next iteration , I propose
    MLT or Energy optimized ray traced graphics for the foveated central portion so that refraction, reflection, luminescence & shadows etc are rendered accurately realistically
    The idea is to make the player forget the real world.
    The area other than the central foveated portion be painted normally
    (with even more degradation at edges to save processing power)
    remember ray traced graphics is the Holy Grail to chase
    and I believe its not impossible
    if several separate dedicated processors process info in dedicated parallel manner

    • G-man

      Yeah i propose they make it better and faster and more good and cost less.

  • brandon9271

    All these exciting features and at the end of the day it’s still just a mobile headset. Meh

    • G-man

      Yeah just vr ununteathered without a £2000 pc who wants that? Meh

      • brandon9271

        Google cardboard is untethered VR… But it’s shit. What’s your point?

        • G-man

          yeah google cardboard and this are exactly the same.

          prick.

          • brandon9271

            Why are so upset? Mom wont buy you a gaming PC? Ok, not Google cardboard. GearVR. Daydream.. whatever. We barely have a AAA game on PC VR but somehow VR on mobile will be the second coming of Christ.. even though the best mobile VR is weaker than PSVR. Flappy Bird VR… WEEEE! lmao

          • G-man

            upset? because i pointed out that youre complaining about something portable not being as good as a desktop pc and compariing it to a £5 piece of cardboard.

            do you complain about everything thats different from everything else all the time? or just with vr? do you comnplain yur phone screen isn’t as big as your tv? or that your tv isn’t as portable as your phone?

            i’m not getting the leap in logic. you think i cant buy a gaming pc myself because i’m pointing out your bitching? sounds more like you projecting your own issues quit frankly. it sound slike you are th eone who doesn’t even have a cardboard and are just complaining

            also “weaker than psvr”, so a higher resolution, better tracking technology, eye tracking, portable, but a processing horsepower isn’t as high but the tech is all round newer and just completely different to the point where theres no point comparing them. why are you complaing it’s not as powerful as psvr exactly? do you own a smartphone/ because you knwo those things arnet even as powerful as a supercompuer? whats the point.
            More random bitching.

          • brandon9271

            I’m not complaining. I’m just not excited about mobile VR at all. You said, “oh, it’s just mobile VR without a £2000 PC.” As if, the experience on mobile will be even remotely comparable to PC. We already know what mobile VR is like. It’s already here and it’s crap. Now i can do it without a phone. Ok, so what? I already have a phone so not needing a phone isn’t really a selling point.
            I have a different opinion then you. Welcome to the internet.

          • G-man

            no one said not needing a phone was a selling point. the fact its made to be a vr headset is the selling point. it’s not bodging a phone into a vr headset.
            theres plenty of reason why this is interesting. but not if you just bindly think it’s the sae as google cardboard.do you think the current desktop headsets are the same as the original rift developer kit?

  • Downvote King

    FOVE is not considered consumer ready; it’s still aimed at developers.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      This reference model also isn’t consumer ready.

      • Downvote King

        Did anyone say it was?

  • Ploppy Man

    What’s the fov?

    • G-man

      Field of view. How much of your vision the screen covers

      • Ploppy Man

        Yes but what is the value?

  • Andrew Jakobs

    other sites are mentioning a 2560×1600 per eye for the reference headset.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      And a dutch techsite says 2560×1600 per eye (source: https://tweakers.net/nieuws/135531/qualcomm-kondigt-standalone-vr-headset-met-snapdragon-845-soc-aan.html)
      But in the actual qualcomm news article the resolution isn’t mentioned at all.
      Knowing that the HTC Vive Focus is based on the snapdragon 835 VR reference headset which already has a resolution of 2880 x 1600 (1440×1600 per eye), I don’t think this 845 reference model would have a much lower resolution.. Also the verge doesn’t mention anywhere where they got their information from. (Tweaktown reported it one day earlier, but also no mention of where it got their info from, nor does the source I provide).

  • Vincent

    EMAN makes a micro OLED 2000 x2000 pixels per eye.

  • JMB

    “New for the 845 though appears to be the addition of SLAM—Simultaneous Location And Mapping—which Qualcomm says “maps and detects obstacles in the user’s physical [world],” and allows for “integration real-world objects into the virtual world.””

    Eh what?

    SLAM is the name of the technology that enables this part of your article: “Like previous versions of the VDRK, the new model uses a pair of on-board cameras for inside-out positional tracking, meaning you don’t need external sensors for the headset to be able to track your movement through space.”

    How can Ben of all people not get this right?

  • Anthony Kenneth Steele

    Vr has mind control written all over it

    • nipple_pinchy

      lol