Published on February 23rd, 2021 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Qualcomm’s New AR ‘Smart Viewer’ Lets You Pin Virtual Screens to Your Walls
2021 may become the year we see the AR market really heat up. In this post from Adi Robertson at The Verge there is an overview of the Qualcomm XR Smart Viewer glasses to be introduced later this year. Add that to Lenovo, NReal, Facebook (maybe) and others there will be a lot of devices to play with. Being able to pin computer screens to walls could be the right functionality to get more users to consider AR a must-have everyday tool in the toolbelt. There were some that thought that nobody is going to walk around with a phone in their hand all day, too. AR doesn’t need a “Pokemon Go” moment for business use, it just needs to provide usability that helps people do their jobs either easier, faster or better – or all three! That’s all.
Photo courtesy Qualcomm
Chip maker Qualcomm has introduced a new reference design for augmented reality glasses: an AR “smart viewer” you can tether to a phone or PC via USB-C. Called the XR1 Smart Viewer, the system is meant to be lightweight and look (sort of) like sunglasses, while also enabling features like hand tracking and spatial awareness. The first glasses based on its design are set for release in mid-2021.
The XR1 is designed as a consumer-focused “must-have accessory” for phones and computers, rather than a self-contained product. It uses two 1920 x 1080 OLED displays with a 90Hz refresh rate, plus an array of cameras, to add a virtual overlay to the real world. The camera array can also support hand tracking as a control scheme, and it can detect planes in the environment, so you can do things like pin a virtual window to a wall for multiple PC displays — or place a virtual object on a table and interact with it through gesture controls. Like most AR glasses, however, they have a relatively limited field of view of 45 degrees, which is roughly similar to the Microsoft HoloLens 2.
Lenovo already announced a product based on the XR1 Smart Viewer reference design: the ThinkReality A3 glasses, which it unveiled at CES earlier this year. ThinkReality A3 glasses are set for release in mid-2021 at a currently unlisted price, following up on Lenovo’s A6 business-focused headset from 2019.
The XR1 Smart Viewer is distinct from the Snapdragon XR1 or XR2 platforms — a pair of chipsets that are optimized for virtual and augmented reality glasses, including last year’s XR2-based Oculus Quest 2. It’s designed to perform some tasks using built-in electronics, but it offloads other tasks to an external computing device, allowing for a more lightweight design.
Qualcomm has spent the last couple of years pushing for AR glasses adoption, which it thinks could stimulate the nascent 5G cellular market by popularizing high-bandwidth mixed-reality apps. It’s previously partnered with Chinese company Nreal on the Nreal Light, one of the only consumer-focused AR viewers — which plugs into a Qualcomm Snapdragon 855- or 865-powered phone. The Nreal Light launched late last year in Korea and Japan, and yesterday, Nreal announced that it will arrive in the European Union and the US later this year.