It’s possible standalone headsets are poised to leave the smartphone parts bin behind in the near future in a big way, as Qualcomm is reported to unveil a new Snapdragon system-on-a-chip (SoC) built specifically for standalone AR/VR headsets, according to a report by Bloomberg.

Citing people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg maintains that Qualcomm will unveil the new SoC, reportedly dubbed the Snapdragon XR1, at the Augmented World Expo (AWE) in Santa Clara, California, which takes place May 30th – June 1st.

The Snapdragon XR1 is said to incorporate “a main processing unit, a graphics processor, security functions and components to handle artificial intelligence tasks.”

Standalone headsets have largely made use of SoCs originally designed for smartphones, including the Snapdragon 835 chipset, which services a number of the latest and penultimate-gen  flagship smartphones including Samsung’s Galaxy S8, Google Pixel 2, and HTC U11. Standalone VR headsets incorporating the 835 include HTC Vive Focus and Lenovo Mirage Solo.

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The company previously unveiled a VR headset reference design for hardware and software developers called Snapdragon 845 VRDK, which is based on the company’s latest Snapdragon 845. The reference design includes support for 6DOF controller input via ultrasonic tracking, hand-tracking and eye-tracking. The Snapdragon 845 VRDK claims a 30% increase in graphics performance and power efficiency, and twice as much display throughput compared to the previous 835 VDRK.

image courtesy Qualcomm

If the report holds true, we’d expect Qualcomm to make these ‘next-gen’ mobile AR/VR features standard in the new XR1, along with greater power efficiency to make battery life longer. It stands to reason the company will also offer a similar VRDK to software and hardware developers with the XR1 at its core—although this is pure conjecture at this point.

Qualcomm is reported to partner with a number of existing headset makers that plan to make use of the supposed XR1 chipset, including HTC and the smartglasses manufacturer Vuzix.


We’ll have feet on the ground at AWE this year, so check back next week for all things AR/VR to come from the expo.

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  • Engineer_92

    It was only a matter of time!! Soon these chips will have to have their own category, just as smartphone chips have theirs. I do believe the AI component will be a big game changer for the future of these chips

  • MosBen

    This is why I suspect that standalone headsets are the future of VR, and that the necessity of gaming PCs is going to be a relic of this era. Most people don’t care about photo-realistic graphics. They’re fine interacting with worlds with less visual fidelity as long as their ability to interact with it feels good, the price is right, and the tech is easy to use. I expect that we’ll see one more generation of tethered HMDs, two more at a maximum, but that’s probably going to be it.

    • Doctor Bambi

      Jason Rubin live @ GDC : “PC is vital to the VR business. We think PC will lead the industry for the next decade or more. Oculus is investing just as much in PC as ever. We’re in all thee categories [PC, mobile, standalone], and plan to stay there.”

      I definitely agree with you that standalone is going to be the dominate category of VR devices in the near future, but technically speaking, PCVR opens many doors Standalone just can’t afford to due to compute and power constraints.

      Once Gen 2 headsets get here, it’s going to be very clear why they’re still around and will likely make Santa Cruz feel antiquated by comparison.

      • Engineer_92

        The Gen 2 PC headsets should be wireless, correct?

        • Doctor Bambi

          Not necessarily. Oculus, at least, have been pretty clear it’s not a priority for them due to it significantly impacting cost.

          If you’re trying to push drastically higher resolution/FOV/refresh rate, or new tech like eye tracking or vary focal displays, a tether may be the only viable option to transfer all the needed power and data.

          Luckily HTC have been working on a first party wireless adapter for the Vive and Pro. I could see that being the first step toward fully untethered PCVR headsets, but it seems to me like there’s still a long way to go before we reach an optimized solution that’s open and easily accessible to everyone. :/

          • kool

            It’s not that far off wifi and 5g connections should allow mobile vr to stream high end graphics this year.

          • Doctor Bambi

            This year?? Aren’t earliest estimates for a 5G launch 2020? And even that will rely on 4G networks filling in the gaps (which there will be many since 5G is much more occlusion prone than 4G).

            Not trying to bash you, but unless I’ve missed some recent news, seems like we’re still many years away from a fleshed out 5G network, and even then it hasn’t really been proven to handle streaming a high rez VR experience under load.

            The concepts and ideas being lauded about 5G all sound great, but I remain cautiously optimistic about how that actually comes to fruition.

          • kool

            Ihdk when 5g will roll out, but wifi will be the way they stream to standalones this year. Which is fine with me… idk how I feel about public vr anyway. The ability to get high end graphics in a standalone headset at an affordable price this year is an exciting prospect and it’s just what the platform needs to attract more gamers.

      • MosBen

        Yes, PCVR is super important today, because mobile hardware simply isn’t quite there yet. But there’s a limit to the appeal of raw horsepower for most users, and once mobile VR is able to provide a sufficiently good experience it’s advantages (cost, ease of use, mobility, etc.) start to become more and more important to a person making a purchasing decision. Basically, if PCVR is going to become the mainstream platform for VR the system requirements need to drop (relatively) such that literally any PC in someone’s home (within a few years age span) will be sufficient to run most VR software, at least minimally. And at that point the gap in power between the PC and the mobile parts becomes smaller.

        My original post overstates the case a bit. There will likely always be a niche of hardcore PCVR enthusiasts using their tricked out machines to drive the most data to their HMDs, but they won’t be a major focus of the big players like Oculus, HTC, etc. But when we’re talking a generation or two we’re talking 5-10 years here.

      • kool

        Mobile vr will take off based on high speed internet access. Its easier to stream from a virtual pc to a headset than it is to fit high end parts in a headset. Most people would rather pay a sub than buy a high end pc but atleast every body can play high end vr together as the cost of entry is lowered dramatically!

    • anony

      I’d bet that you’re wrong on that one. It’s the same argument as pc vs console. If a pc can do more than standalone then there will be a large market for it. People wil pay a little extra to have the best at the moment. I rarely play mobile games as it is because of how shallow they are, the mobility of my phone isn’t enough to get me to play lesser versions of what were capable of.

      • anonymo

        Also there’s room for discussion in just remote processing and AI technology. Say our wireless internet is capable of sending our inputs and us receiving outputs faster than what a mobile processor can do. well then all our phones processing can be minimal and literally outsourced to high end pc’s than just relay the data back to the phone, and then our mobile processing power doesn’t matter too much anymore.

        • kool

          There already on it.

      • MosBen

        I probably overstated it a bit. Maybe a better version will be that in a generation (or two at max), mobile VR will be the primary platform, with wide adoption, while PC-tethering will be relegated to a relatively small niche of power users. There will be a spectrum, but not all points on the spectrum will be of equal importance to the VR industry.

      • kool

        When 5g hits Mobile vr can stream games from virtual PCs keeping parity with pc graphics. The choice will be pay a sub or buy a pc and diy. No correct answer just choices…

    • anony

      plus gpu procssing is more than just if it’s photo-realistic or not, you can have a low poly level and the headset still needs to render 4k(or whatever were at) worth of pixels with lighting and shading.

    • anony

      Plus there’s going to be a middle ground of wireless-tethered, where desktops still do the processing but your not wired by a tether, like the TPCast but a perfect version of it. So you’ll get the wireless benefits as well as the full pc capabilities. So its going to be a spectrum the same as it is today. Mobile is more mobile but desktops are doing more.

    • BananaBreadBoy

      Consoles are more accessible than PC, yet PC gaming is still going strong as ever. Mobile gaming is even more accessible and yet consoles are still popular. As long as people are gonna keep wanting better and better experiences, those experiences are gonna be catered to by different companies on the market. So yea, standalones are gonna be popular for sure, and most likely for mainstream appeal. But as long as some companies push for the bleeding edge, PCVR is gonna be just fine.

      • MosBen

        If I remember correctly, something like 25 million people had PCs powerful enough to meet the requirements for the Rift/Vive as of some time last year. That’s certainly a lot of people, but not even close to the number of people who own consoles (the PS4 alone has something like 79 million). And even though 25 million is certainly a big number, it’s not the size of audience that we, or industry players like Oculus, talk about when they talk about VR going mainstream. VR simply isn’t only for serious gamers, and VR technology that targets serious gamers will become more and more of a niche as mobile hardware becomes more and more capable. My original post was a bit of an overstatement, as you’re right that there will probably always be *some* body of people using their beast machines to push the most fidelity to their HMDs, but it’s certainly not going to be the primary focus of the industry.

        • gothicvillas

          There will be always people shopping in 1$ store. You and many more. No probs.

  • Anthony Kenneth Steele

    I don’t want anything mobile until there is positional tracking. Gear Vr is absolutely fine graphics wise I just want positional tracking

    • Ted Joseph

      Santa Cruz is supposed to be excellent, but I wish it had a larger FOV as well..

  • Jason Mitcheson

    This is so great – if only it happened years ago! I suppose that’s being greedy. I wonder if this is what will power the Oculus Santa Cruz device?

  • GammaSmasher71

    Vr is going to get really good in the very near future.

  • MarquisDeSang

    R.I.P PC, Consoles, Phones, Tablets. VR/AR is the only logical future.

    • kool

      No the matrix is…

  • kool

    The next psvr should be able to do ps pro level graphics on its own and ps5 level graphics when tethered (which means relying on the box for graphics wirelessly not a cord) to the console. Add a 5g upgrade down the road and you’ll never need another headset until the matrix gets here.

  • Ted Joseph

    I have the Rift and the Go, and I enjoy both headsets. I am actually interested in Apples VR/AR tech that is supposed to use a very fast WIFI connection to a separate box. I think that would be a great idea as the headset can be light like a pair of glasses. Hopefully Apple delivers on this tech, and sets the bar high.

  • So, why have they released the 845 if this was their plan?