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Qualcomm aims to spark VR market

Its virtual reality/augmented reality chip aims for a better experience

Sipa USA/TNS

Qualcomm has launched a new dedicated chip designed for virtual and augmented reality headsets and glasses, which could help make the devices more affordable like the Oculus Go, which is powered by a Qualcomm smartphone chip and sells for $199.
Sipa USA/TNS Qualcomm has launched a new dedicated chip designed for virtual and augmented reality headsets and glasses, which could help make the devices more affordable like the Oculus Go, which is powered by a Qualcomm smartphone chip and sells for $199.

Qualcomm is rolling out a dedicated chip targeting virtual reality/augmented reality headsets in hopes of driving the nascent market into the mainstream.

The new chip from Qualcomm, which primarily makes smartphone semiconductors today, targets virtual reality/augmented reality gear at affordable prices — in the $200 range.

That is similar to the $199 price tag for Facebook’s new Oculus Go virtual reality headset, which went on sale earlier this month.

Oculus Go, a standalone VR headset that doesn’t require tethering to a smartphone or computer, is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 821 smartphone processor.

By having a dedicated virtual/augmented reality chip, Qualcomm hopes to be able to drive a better experience for untethered AR/VR devices — with longer battery life, lower temperatures and better video/audio.

Qualcomm is the first major chip designer to produce a system-on-a-chip specifically for virtual realty/augmented reality. In the past, it has supplied smartphone processors that were sometimes tweaked for VR/AR customers.

But other chip makers could follow suit. Both Intel and Nvidia have virtual reality programs that supply headset makers with computer processors and graphics chips.

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Qualcomm is calling its AR/VR chip platform the Snapdragon XR1, and it was unveiled Tuesday at the Augmented World Expo in the Bay Area. The chip is tailored for high-definition video, audio, graphics, head tracking, speech recognition, jitter reduction, low latency and controller support, among other features key to virtual reality.

Many virtual reality headsets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear VR and Google Daydream, are essentially accessories to smartphones. Users fit their smartphones into a virtual reality headset to get the VR experience.

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