At a small press-conference at IFA in Berlin, Qualcomm has been outlining its plan to slash the costs of virtual reality hardware. The mobile processor giant has unveiled a reference headset design, called the Snapdragon VR820, that is built around its Snapdragon 820 smartphone processor. The aim is to allow headset manufacturers to cut development costs, which should make VR cheaper for consumers too.
Along with four of Qualcomm’s custom Kryo CPU cores and an Adreno 530 GPU, the Snapdragon VR820 comes with a pair of 1440×1400 AMOLED displays with 70Hz refresh rates. The headset features eye-tracking hardware, six-axis motion tracking, and two forward-facing cameras. Interestingly, these cameras can transmit data to the display, allowing the headset to double up for augmented reality applications too.
The added upside of Qualcomm’s design is that, just like other headset that use smartphone technology, the VR820 will be free from cables, offering up superior freedom of movement. However, the hardware tucked inside the headset is much less capable than top-notch PC hardware, so customers shouldn’t expect the same gaming performance and titles as the Rift of Vive. Even so, there are lots of potential uses for mobile-based VR products.
“The Snapdragon VR820 integrates key technologies and features for an exceptional VR experience and provides a springboard for OEMs and developers to usher in the next generation of truly portable and untethered devices that we think are necessary for mass consumer adoption of VR,” – Anthony Murray, senior vice president and general manager, IoT, Qualcomm
Given the huge costs of high performance PC hardware and a Rift or Vive, or a flagship smartphone and a Samsung Gear VR headset or equivalent, there’s certainly room in the market for cheaper competitors. By focusing on just the necessary hardware and providing support dedicated to a single reference design, Qualcomm’s strategy should help to make cheaper hardware a reality.
Importantly, Qualcomm isn’t looking to sell its own headsets directly to consumers. Instead, the Snapdragon VR820 will act as a blueprint for other manufacturers to design around, which could generate extra chip sales for Qualcomm.