Why Qualcomm is Leading the Future of 5G, XR & The Metaverse
Who is Qualcomm?
Established in 1985, Qualcomm is a public multinational corporation that creates intellectual property, semiconductors, software, and services related to wireless technology. More than likely they power some part of the device you are reading this on. Many mobile devices rely on the Snapdragon mobile processors and the company recently released their flagship 865 and 888 processors which promises to provide 5G access and much faster real time rendering capabilities vital to XR on mobile devices and their revolutionary XR2 chip for dedicated XR wearable devices. Their new CEO Cristiano Amon has already started making big waves in the industry since starting in the position only a few days ago outlining the next decade of 5G in a great keynote below.
Update: May 22, 2022 — Qualcomm announces their new AR glasses reference design. In addition to Snapdragon XR2, the AR glasses include Qualcomm’s FastConnect 6900 chip which equips it with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3. The company says the chip is designed for “ultra-low latency,” and manages less than 3ms of latency between the headset and the smartphone.
Qualcomm has provided a ‘reference design’ for XR products which has lead to a number of new products hitting the market in the past 24 months. In addition, they have partnered with several telco operators to deliver the combination of 5G, XR and The Metaverse at scale.
A quiet storm has been brewing for the past 5 years. Often overlooked by the public, offered as a future dream, but not reality. Overshadowed by its counterpart, virtual reality (VR) due to flashy game titles and lots of media hype. Part of the storm is what technology giant Qualcomm is referring to as XR.
What is XR? XR represents Spatial Computing, 3D, Virtual, Augmented & Mixed Reality which is a slider of immersion from real reality to complete digital environment. For simplicity and completeness, we will include technologies such as photogrammetry (creating volumetric 3D assets from photos), videogrammetry, avatars, computer vision, LiDAR, SLAM, and world building in this overall description of XR. For a more comprehensive explanation, click here.
Why it matters? 40 years ago, personal computers were introduced, 20 years ago, the internet, 15 years ago, smart phones, the next paradigm shift in technology is XR and it will occur within the next 10 years.
“VR and AR have the potential to add $1.5 trillion to the global economy by 2030” — PwC “Seeing is Believing”
What will XR do for me? Think of XR as technology that gives you superpowers of X-Ray Vision, Room Scanning, 3D Animations, Spatial Understanding, Immersive Interaction and Interoperability across all devices. Each of these superpowers separately would be incredible feat of technological wonder, but why settle for one when you can have them all.
What Are The Use Cases for XR? Think of XR as a universal tool to serve all industries for enhanced and improved marketing, commerce, training, design and collaboration. XR is the ultimate computer screen. We stare at cell phone and computer screens all day, but what if the whole world was your canvas. What would your office look like if you could work anywhere? What would you learn if you could learn anything faster and more efficiently? What would your company do with a technology that your customers and employees will engage with? XR allows all of this.
Learn more about how XR tools can be used for communication at your organization in this comprehensive “Global Resource Guide to XR Collaboration” graciously sponsored by Qualcomm and other partners to bring education to everyone on how to leverage these tools in a time of extraordinary circumstances.
“XR starts on your phone and ends on your face.” — Alan Smithson, Co-Founder at MetaVRse.
What is 5G?
5G is a new cellular hardware system built from the ground up. Telco’s have spent billions upgrading towers, re-running fibre lines and building the next phase of our communication infrastructure. 5G is broken into three parts; mmWave, Mid-band and Low-band with each serving different customer needs. Low-band: Long waves have great range and aren’t affected by obstacles, bringing 5G to more places. Mid-band: Mid-length waves bring a balance between speed and range, covering a broad area with fast speeds. High-band (mmWave): Short waves cover a small area and are capable of super-fast data transmission, but can’t penetrate buildings.
mmWave is the fastest form on 5G serving the needs of consumers looking for fast connections, high capacity, high bandwidth, low latency — perfect for XR, autonomous vehicles and anything that requires ultra-fast, low latency application.
Mid-band will be used for things like stadiums, police, general purpose cell phone usage. This is the band most of us will spend our time on.
Low-band will serve uses such as Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, road maintenance, supply chain logistics and smart agriculture.
5G x XR — The Future of Computing
“XR is a new communication medium that unlock new computing paradigms and 5G is the underlying infrastructure to make it all work, fast” — Alan Smithson
According to Qualcomm VP and GM of XR Hugo Swart, who in this great Protocol Article, On-Q Blog and this CCS Insights Interview said he sees the road to mass-market consumer XR developing on four parallel tracks:
- VR headsets with video pass-through: Facebook’s Quest already offers a rudimentary version of this, allowing users to see a grainy version of the real world in VR. That image quality is going to get better, and deliver high-fidelity video for immersive AR — but you won’t be wearing these headsets on the street. “We will have really cool experiences, but it will be indoors,” Swart said.
- Enterprise headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens: These devices are still far too bulky for the average consumer, but that’s likely going to change over time. “Even for enterprise, you need to make them lighter,” Swart told me.
- Smart glasses: Glasses like the Snap’s early Spectacles, Bose’s audio sunglasses or Facebook’s upcoming collaboration with Ray-Ban don’t offer true AR immersion, but they do foreshadow where things are going. “It’s a first step in that direction,” Swart said.
- Wireless viewers: Wearables like Nreal’s smart glasses have been striking a compromise between immersion and comfort by outsourcing compute to phones or dedicated processing units. Future iterations could use Wi-Fi 6E to connect wirelessly to phones or PCs, or tap directly into the cloud via 5G. “Within the next couple of years, we will see a lot of progress” on this front, Swart predicted.
“I think one of the reasons we’ve enabled more than 45 XR devices is multiple reference designs, which allows us to support everyone from the smallest start-ups to the biggest players. There are different degrees of utilization of our reference design.” — Hugo Swart, GM of XR at Qualcomm
The question becomes how can you make a fluid, seamless and universally accessible XR possible? One way this will manifest is through the use of universal, web based creation tools like MetaVRse, an official Qualcomm partner. The other is by creating chips and hardware that are powerful enough to render beautiful 3D experiences instantly across all devices through the a universal web-browser.
Here are a few web-based MetaVRse experiences you can try right now:
Qualcomm XR2 Chip, the 5G-ready XR hardware platform has this to say about themselves:
“The next-generation, high-performance Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 Platform, launched at the end of 2019, was designed to support this split processing and 5G specifications, using mmWave and sub-6 GHz. Qualcomm has launched the world’s first high-performance XR/5G platform, “because we are familiar with the needs of extended reality from both a hardware and software perspective. The chips we integrate with XR terminals require optimizations over and above those found in our smartphones. In terms of hardware, we need to be able to support several cameras. As opposed to a maximum of three or four cameras in a smartphone, XR2 currently supports seven. When it comes to software, artificial intelligence must be given a leading role. It plays a major role in tracking and managing information from the sensors on headsets. A combination of AI and artificial vision is at work to read, understand and predict user positioning and movements. XR2 technology allocates and dedicates blocks of hardware to these AI and artificial vision streams, for optimal and low-power processing”. These new capabilities will allow existing and emerging use cases such as holographic telepresence to gain a new dimension and to overcome current constraints.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 5G Platform offers a reference design, tested and validated on Ericsson’s 5G infrastructure, available to headset manufacturers to reduce the time-to-market and design costs.” You can learn more about Qualcomm Snapdragon chips here.
Qualcomm’s commitment to XR doesn’t stop there. The company is also part of the Kronos Group, a consortium of over 150 hardware and software companies who help define standards for various compute, graphics, and media APIs. This organization is responsible for creating globally accepted standards for the media we create and consume, a position that Qualcomm seems to be taking very seriously by leading the OpenXR initiative.
Qualcomm hasn’t just been leading the 5G x XR revolution, they have been innovating and solving the hardest problems as evidenced by their 2020 win of VR Awards Innovative Company of the Year.
If you are interested in becoming part of the XR revolution, I will leave you with this link to more resources brought to you by….Qualcomm!
Developers: Creating a new reality with spatial computing
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