Thinner and with a wireless connection, the new Smart Viewers from Qualcomm offer a vision of what the augmented reality devices of tomorrow could be, but certain points remain problematic.
Qualcomm is one of the major players in the augmented reality market with its chips that equip many devices. The manufacturer regularly offers reference models that can serve as a working basis for the company’s partners.
Like its predecessor, this new model requires a connection to a computer or phone to operate. It is therefore not an autonomous model in the manner of a Microsoft Hololens, which does not however remove the interest of the product.
A lighter and wireless update
The first remarkable point of the new Smart Viewer is its slimming treatment. The frame of the glasses goes from 25 mm deep for the wired version to 15.6 mm, reducing the massive appearance of the device.
In terms of weight, Qualcomm announces 115 grams, which is a little higher than the Nreal Light (106 g), but much lower than the 566 g of Hololens 2.
Another important novelty, the new concept of Qualcomm abandons the USB-C connection in favor of a wireless system based on Bluetooth and WiFi 6 (and 6E) promising a communication latency of only 3 ms, provided that the other device is equipped with the Qualcomm FastConnect 6900 chip.
For this new concept, Qualcomm is keeping 1080p with 90Hz refresh for its micro-LED-based projection. To offer a smaller footprint, the manufacturer had to reduce the field of view a little from 45° to 40°.
The glasses will be equipped with the latest processor from Qualcomm, namely the Snapdragon XR2 in order to offer better processing of the images received from the front cameras for example. Note that the most demanding tasks can be divided between the glasses and the phone to speed up processing.
The real latency between the acquisition of an element and the emission of the corresponding photon is announced as less than 20 ms, a threshold beyond which the mixed reality experience struggles to be natural and fluid.
A major sacrifice
The use of wireless technology in a high-performance helmet introduces a major problem, that of autonomy. With the built-in 650mAh battery, the headphones shouldn’t offer more than 30 minutes of full-throttle battery life, although lighter use can greatly increase battery life.
If it is possible to connect an additional battery to the glasses, the professional use of such a device (to display multiple virtual screens for example) seems compromised for the moment.
Of course, this is only a working basis and each manufacturer can modify it in order to prioritize the elements they want, such as autonomy or even the aesthetic aspect.
Qualcomm announced that “at least four” manufacturers were working on this new reference, without citing them. No information has been released as to a release date at this time.
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Qualcomm presents a new concept of augmented reality glasses
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