Qualcomm Launches Snapdragon 845 VR Headset Reference Platform

Qualcomm Headset

Qualcomm on Wednesday announced a new virtual reality (VR) reference platform based on its flagship mobile chip, the Snapdragon 845. This is the same system-on-chip that Samsung for its Galaxy S9, which is expected to be announced at Mobile World Congress (MWC) later this month, which packs power computing and graphics muscle that Qualcomm hopes to leverage for VR.

"We continue to deliver new advancements in technologies for our customers to utilize as they aim to capitalize on the growing standalone and smartphone VR industry," said Hugo Swart, Head of Virtual and Augmented Reality Business Group, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. "With the Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform, we’re supporting the next wave of smartphone and standalone VR headsets for our customers and developers to create the immersive applications and experiences of the future."

This is not a surprising move, as Qualcomm has already been making a push in VR. The company's previous generation Snapdragon 835 is found on some standalone VR headsets, such as HTC's Focus and Lenovo's Mirage Solo. Qualcomm's new VR reference platform built around its Snapdragon 845 offers more processing grunt and capabilities. Specifically, a Snapdragon 845 VR headset can support two 2400x2400 resolution displays at 120 frames per second.

Qualcomm Headset

At the heart of the new platform is the Adreno 360 visual processor subsystem. This provides Snapdragon 845 headsets with 30 percent faster graphics and 30 percent better power efficiency than Snapdragon 835 headsets, along with more than twice as much display throughput. It also introduces Adreno Foveation, which combines graphics rendering with eye tracking so the headset knows where the user is looking. It's a nifty trick that allows headsets to focus processing power on where the user is actually looking, while rendering other parts of scene at a lower resolution.

Qualcomm's reference headset has two cameras to track eye movements, and two others that face outward. It also features six-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) tracking with SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping) to follow users around a room without the need for base stations.

According to Qualcomm, it's technology has been used by customers to launch more than 20 devices across standalone head-mounted displays and VR/AR-capable smartphones. It's not clear when exactly we will see products based on Qualcomm's upgraded VR reference platform.