Qualcomm Forms Partnership with Google, Samsung to Build a New XR headset – A Competitor to Apple Vision Pro

Qualcomm Forms Partnership with Google, Samsung to Build a New XR headset – A Competitor to Apple Vision Pro

Published: 22-03-2024
Updated: 22-03-2024

In this article :

Introduction

The Apple Vision Pro was the most important announcement of an XR headset in 2023. It created a big hype, which officially rendered XR as such relevant for big consumer markets. As of currently, the Apple Vision Pro doesn’t have a real competitor, which created a lot of movement around other tech giants that have a chance of building a headset that could compete with it. Qualcomm, Samsung and Google agreed to take on the task to build this new high-end XR headset.

In the lead-up to CES 2024, Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 chip. It is a system-on-a-chip and a significant contribution to XR – so much so that it initiated  partnerships with Google and Samsung. In this article, we will look at what this union of forces mean – tangibly in the form of a new headset, and also for the future of the virtual and augmented reality industry.

Qualcomm, Google and Samsung – A Power Partnership

The partnerships with Google and Samsung is a strategic move. Qualcomm will be embedding its technology into the future mixed reality ecosystem​​s of top industry leaders – Google and Samsung. As all such collaborations, this is about pooling of resources, but also about aligned visions. The combined expertise in software and hardware development of all three companies will bring upgrades in technical details and design precision, and is expected to surge a new wave of applications and experiences that were previously out of reach.

Google expressed enthusiasm for the ongoing collaboration with Qualcomm and Samsung, highlighting the potential for the Android ecosystem to leverage the new chip’s capabilities to create novel experiences. Similarly, Samsung conveyed excitement about working alongside Qualcomm and Google to offer XR advancements to their Galaxy users.

Overview of Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2

Specifications of the XR2+ Gen 2

  • up to 4.3K resolution per eye at 90 frames per second (a substantial upgrade over previous model Snapdragon XR2)
  • 2.5 times improvement in GPU performance
  • CPU speed increase by around 20%
  • eight-fold increase in AI capabilities
  • 12ms full-color video see-through latency

Source : realite-virtuelle.com

Practical Implications

Practically this means that the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 will be able to set a new brand standard for visual clarity based on a percentage increase in processing power, graphics rendering capabilities, and support for higher resolutions and refresh rates. It also promises highly responsive user experience providing immediate and relevant feedback to user inputs or actions, and more detailed and responsive mixed reality environments – from life-size overlays and room-scale screens to demanding virtual desktop applications. The improved AI processing power serves enhancement of gesture recognition, voice commands, real-time environmental understanding​​​​, and promises reduction of motion sickness.

New VR Headsets Possibly with Highly Integrated Ecosystems

The XR ecosystems are getting more and more robust, which is a challenge to manage for both developers and creators. The involvement of Google, due to its extensive software infrastructure and platform services, alongside Samsung’s hardware manufacturing, suggests that future VR products will be highly integrated. In the light of all developments in the realm of virtual worlds, this is a necessary step to adopt to realize an interoperable system of all virtual applications.

There are still challenges that preclude adoption of VR technology, such as device interoperability, content availability, and user interface design. And together, Google, and Samsung are best positioned to offer innovative solutions when powered by the latest Qualcomm chipsets. Their coming together is a clear indicator of the industry’s shifting towards hardware collaborations.

Vision Pro as a Competitor – A Pivotal Moment for Spatial Computing

Source : apple.com

Both Google and Samsung are key players in the tech industry, but do not (yet) dominate the VR and AR domain. Competing with Apple and Meta XR products is not easy, especially after their Vision Pro and Quest 3 launch in 2023. And although the Vision Pro sales projections by International Data Corp. suggest a cautious market entry in terms of units shipped, at this point the industry movements are about establishing positions. Still, big companies cannot really afford to postpone their entry into the ER domain or expansion of research and development, if they wish to remain relevant.

Let’s look at what is there to compete with in the first place. Vision Pro’s operating system visionOS, which is a spatial computing platform, was designed from the ground up, alongside a suite of built-in apps and compatibility with iPhone and iPad apps, which offer users a vast, versatile digital environment​​​​​​.

The device features a user interface controlled by eye, hand, and voice inputs, and coupled with micro-OLED technology, Vision Pro delivers ultra-high-resolution displays with high fidelity, support for Magic Keyboard, Magic Trackpad, and a virtual representation of Mac within the headset for productivity tasks​​​​. The Spatial Audio system and a high-performance eye-tracking system is powered by the M2 and R1 chips. Vision Pro also puts an emphasis on privacy and security, with features like Optic ID for secure authentication within the spatial computing environment​​.

Source : apple.com

Expectations from the Samsung-Google XR Headset

To be able to compete with the Apple Vision Pro, we expect the Google-Samsung XR headset, powered by the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 to check off the following qualifications: 

  • Match the advanced optics – aim for a minimum resolution of 4000 x 4000 pixels per eye, support for High Dynamic Range with brightness levels up to 1000 nits, coverage of at least 98% of the DCI-P3 color space, and implement advanced foveated rendering technology to efficiently optimize graphical performance
  • Spatial audio system that adapts to the user’s head and ear geometry
  • Dual-chip architecture for processing and sensory input that the new chip allows
  • Robust user data protection and secure authentication without hindering the UX
  • Rich ecosystem, strong developer support, and ideally be collaborating with major third-party software providers offering a variety of applications and services
  • Ergonomic, lightweight wearability potentially offering customization options for fit, and to address long-term wearing discomfort
  • Since the Vision Pro relies on an external battery pack for power, a competing device could innovate by integrating a more efficient power solution, longer battery life and less intrusive power system
  • Compete with Vision Pro’s premium price point (around 4000 Eur) or offer a more accessible price while maintaining performance
  • Vision Pro’s closest competitor is currently the Meta Quest Pro prices at 1100 Eur and Meta Quest 3 going around 450-600 Eur, which is not exactly a match to Apple’s premium price point. If Google, Samsung and Qualcomm manage to build a device with capabilities comparable to Vision Pro, but target the middle segment, it could potentially open up a new competitive category of devices.

Takeaway

The competition among technology giants has taken a significant turn. The strategic collaboration between Google and Samsung to develop an XR headset powered by the Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 chipset is indeed a smart convergence of resources and expertise. With Google’s software prowess, Samsung’s hardware expertise, and Qualcomm’s advanced chipset capabilities, this alliance seems to be well equipped to set new standards, and compete with the most advanced headsets on the market, even the high-end Apple Vision Pro.

It’s a bold move and an ambitious strategy, but one we need for mixed reality to take leaps in innovation, as it is the most difficult XR mode to manage properly. It signals that the industry is ready and committed to advancing MR technologies, but to make it worthwhile, such partnerships are necessary and expected to keep coming up in the near future.

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Petra Palusova

Written by Petra Palusova

Petra Palusova is writer for the VRX blog with an affinity for all-things-XR. Architect, systems scientist specialized in XR and synthetic environments, Petra is currently active as a product design lead, advisor and researcher delivering best practices, communications and business strategies to technology companies building XR products and platforms. A true jack of all trades!

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