hip developers Qualcomm have released a new reference design for augmented reality glasses, an AR ‘Smart Viewer’ which can tether to a smartphone or PC via a USB-C. The company has named it XR1 Smart Viewer, the intricate system is designed to be lightweight and resemble the look of sunglasses, however, they also are embedded with features including spatial awareness and hand tracking. The first pair of glasses based on the design are set to launch mid 2021. 

The XR1 was created as a consumer focused must have accessory, for smartphones and PCs, rather than a self contained piece of hardware. The XR1 utilises two 1920 x 1080 OLED displays, combined with a 90Hz refresh rate, plus a range of cameras, to incorporate a virtual overlay to the real world. The range of cameras support hand tracking as a control scheme and are able to detect planes in the environment, so users can place a virtual object on a table and interact with it through gesture controls or pin a virtual window to a wall for multiple PC displays. The AR glasses have a relatively limited field of view of 45 degrees, similar to the Microsoft HoloLens 2.

Lenovo has already declared they are developing a product based on the XR1 Smart Viewer reference design, the ThinkReality A3 glasses, unveiled at CES earlier this year which are set for release mid 2021. 

Qualcomm augmented reality

The XR1 Smart Viewer is unique from the Snapdragon XR1 or XR2 platforms, which are chipsets that are optimised for virtual and augmented reality glasses, including the XR2-based Oculus Quest 2. The chip is designed to perform some tasks using built-in electronics, as well as offloading other tasks to an external computing device, allowing for a more lightweight design.

Qualcomm has committed the last couple of years to pushing for augmented reality glasses adoption, in the hopes of stimulating the nascent 5G cellular market by popularising high-bandwidth MR apps. The company has previously partnered with AR glasses makers Nreal on the Nreal light, one of the few consumer focused AR glasses available on the market. The Nreal Light launched late last year in Korea and Japan. The company has recently announced that its glasses will arrive in the U.S. and Europe later this year.

To date, AR glasses have not made it into the mainstream, however, with the latest developments from Qualcomm, the upcoming release of the ThinkReality A3 and developments from competitors such as Apple and Facebook, it may not be too far ahead in the future to think AR glasses will be part of our everyday life. 

Feb 25, 2021
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