The continuing problem with VR is that expectations significantly exceed what the related technology can do. However, that gap has grown increasingly smaller as advancements in this space have been brought to market. The latest announcement of Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2+ Gen 2 platform is a case in point in that it significantly improves resolution and deploys up to 12 cameras that should enable vendors to significantly improve immersion and provide far stronger mixed-reality experiences.
Let’s look at the state of VR this week and this new XR2+ Gen 2 platform from Qualcomm.
Holodeck: Fixing the Problem with VR
The old TV show Star Trek: Next Generation (Star Trek TNG) provided us with a view of what virtual reality should be. As a user, you should be able to step into a virtual reality experience and have it appear and function as if it were real life.
The initial hardware, outside of military hardware which was far better, was cost optimized, and the technology to even provide a realistic image didn’t initially exist at a price point people could afford. There were issues with the level of power you needed to have (tethered PCs initially), creating a high entry cost for a low-resolution experience that was far from that Star Trek TNG ideal.
But technology improves, and over time we moved from these poor consumer-focused, tethered experiences to untethered experiences with greater resolutions and an improving VR ecosystem.
The latest Meta headset, based on a prior Qualcomm platform, is surprisingly good and provides a vastly better (and safer given it isn’t tethered) VR experience. But the market needed more to better approach that old Star Trek TNG ideal.
XR2+ Gen 2 to the Rescue
The XR2+ Gen 2 spatial computing solution from Qualcomm provides 4.3K resolution for each eye, 15 to 20% more computing performance, and supports over 12 cameras. With this technology, you’ll get full color video see-through at eye quality resolutions, an 8x jump in AI performance, and GPU performance that is 250% better with a 50% improvement in power efficiency.
This means any resulting solution will be better able to see the user and the environment the user is in, be able to use the devices longer with the same size battery as older products, and see an image that is nearly indistinguishable (in terms of quality) with reality because the resolution support is so high.
These cameras could also monitor body movements better than using controllers, further potentially blurring the lines between VR and actual reality. This will result in more realistic player-based avatars and interfaces between the players and the game that increasingly approach the Holodeck ideal. Getting rid of game controllers in favor of far more realistic interfaces and using the cameras to better instrument the hands coupled with force feedback gloves that improve immersion will all increasingly function to improve the level of immersion in the metaverse.
Wrapping Up: The VR Ramp of 2024
With this and other coming announcements, VR is slated to advance significantly in 2024. While the goal of being able to enter the metaverse as if it were a new reality will be unmet, these announcements will continue to close the gap between expectations and reality.
The combination of higher resolution and much greater camera support should result in far stronger gaming and simulation efforts as the software advances to make better use of this new hardware with the result being a vastly improved VR experience.
If we loop in AI, we’ll have AI driven Non-Player Characters (NPCs). Also in 2024, our ability to simulate ever more realistic environments and events will increase dramatically throughout the year.
Qualcomm, Facebook and others are laying the groundwork for our Holodeck future, and while I’ll certainly enjoy the journey, I’m really looking forward to the coming VR revolution when the Holodeck experience becomes real.