Microsoft and Qualcomm are working together on a chip for AR headsets
Microsoft and Qualcomm are working together on a next-generation chip for augmented reality (AR) headsets, Qualcomm announced today. The new platform also comes with support for both of the companies’ AR and mixed reality platforms, Microsoft Mesh and Snapdragon Spaces, bringing the two technologies together for the first time.
This partnership comes as both companies have been increasingly investing in AR and XR. Microsoft introduced Mesh in early 2021, while Qualcomm announced Snapdragon Spaces towards the end of the year. Microsoft has released two iterations of the HoloLens AR headset at this point, and the HoloLens 2 was powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 chip. However, Microsoft also built its custom processor, called HPU, to handle the AR-related tasks, so it wasn’t just Qualcomm hardware doing the work.
During its press conference, Qualcomm President and CEO Cristiano Amon specifically said that the chipset is for “next-generation lightweight glasses”. Amon also stated that the processor will be power efficient, which is important for a head-worn device like this. Hopefully, all of this means we’ll see even smaller headsets in the future, and hopefully, we’ll get closer to a consumer-focused product. So far, Microsoft’s HoloLens has catered pretty much exclusively to business users and developers.
“This collaboration reflects the next step in both companies’ shared commitment to XR and the metaverse,” said Hugo Swart, vice president and general manager of XR, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. “Qualcomm Technologies’ core XR strategy has always been delivering the most cutting-edge technology, purpose-built XR chipsets and enabling the ecosystem with our software platforms and hardware reference designs. We are thrilled to work with Microsoft to help expand and scale the adoption of AR hardware and software across the entire industry.”
Aside from integrating Snapdragon Spaces into Microsoft Mesh, Qualcomm didn’t have a lot more to say about this new AR chip. It seems like the partnership may still be in early stages, or maybe a new device will be announced sometime soon. It’s also not completely clear whether this new chip means Microsoft will no longer be making a separate holographic processor (HPU), or if the new chip will work alongside it.
The HoloLens 2 was first revealed at MWC in February 2019, so it’s nearly three years old at this point. That’s about how long it took for Microsoft to introduce the HoloLens 2 after the first iteration. Plus, MWC 2022 is planned to take place in a couple of months, so it seems like as good a time as any for a new version of the headset.