Day two of chipmaker Qualcomm’s annual Snapdragon Summit saw the unveiling of the Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 — the company’s first dedicated augmented reality chipset — designed to better serve AR experiences through smart glasses and other similar wearables that run on be carried on the head.
Qualcomm already has an established presence in the XR space (virtual reality/VR, mixed reality/MR and augmented reality/AR), with the Meta Quest 2 and Pico 4 notably running on the company’s recent XR2 platform, while Meta’s freshly-faceted Quest Pro headset — which plays into mixed reality a bit thanks to its full-color passthrough support — is one of the first headsets to run on Qualcomm’s upgraded XR2 Plus chipset. However, the experiences and devices the AR2 Gen 1 is designed for are slightly different.
Until now, the size and shape of even existing Qualcomm-powered augmented reality wearables, such as Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, have been determined in part by the size and power requirements of the current chipsets they run on. Despite approaching a look that more closely matches conventional everyday sunglasses, even the company’s own Snapdragon XR1-powered AR reference design comes with stout arms and unusual proportions to fit the XR1 chipset inside.
Despite the somewhat confusing name, the recently revealed Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 is Qualcomm’s first attempt at developing a dedicated AR platform that better fits the form factor of augmented reality glasses that science fiction has promised us; a head-worn AR system that doesn’t compromise on the size of conventional sunglasses as previous attempts have, while also offering better connectivity and lower latency experiences than previous devices.
Rather than having to fit a single SoC into the bridge or arms of a pair of smart glasses, three elements of the AR2 Gen 1 have been separated to reduce the platform’s overall footprint; making it easier to fit into a wider range of form factors.
Compared to the XR2, the AR2 Gen 1 has a 40% smaller PCB and 45% less wiring, with the new reference design that Qualcomm showed at the Summit by placing the main AR processor in one arm, the connectivity module in the other and the AR co-processor in the bridge.
With heavier computers moving off to a supporting device (such as a smartphone), the AR2 Gen 1’s hardware can instead focus on delivering a faster and more responsive experience, punctuated by the same new FastConnect 7800 WiFi module that is too is found in the company’s newly announced Snapdragon 8 Gen. 2 mobile chip, delivering advanced WiFi 7 speeds with latency of less than 2 ms.
In addition, this focused approach means the AR2 Gen 1 also offers 50% less power consumption and 2.5x better AI performance, compared to XR2 when it comes to tasks such as object recognition and hand tracking.
Companies like LG, Nreal, Oppo, Pico, TCL and Xiaomi have already committed to creating their own AR devices running on the AR2 Gen 1, with the potential for hardware-assisted 6DoF tracking, eye tracking and a number of other great AR features expected to appear on this next batch of devices.
Until these slimmer, slimmer, more responsive AR2 Gen 1 smart glasses make their way to the market, check out or check out the best VR headsets you can (and should) buy right now.