A few internal documents that leaked a few days ago show that Microsoft will release its mixed reality HoloLens 2 VR/AR headset in 2019, but there were no exact specifications within that report. Now, a new report from tech site Engadget says that the HoloLens 2 will rely on Qualcomm’s VR/AR/MR processor, the Snapdragon XR1, rather than the company’s mobile Snapdragon 845 processor present in smartphones.
What is the Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1?
The Snapdragon XR1 processor from chipset maker Qualcomm is the company’s first processor for virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). The “XR1” bears its name from Qualcomm’s view of “extended reality” or “Xtended Reality.” Mixed reality is a good word to encompass all of VR, AR, and additional experiences that blur the lines between the virtual and the actual. Qualcomm is releasing the new Snapdragon XR1 because of the growth in mixed reality device adoption.
It bears repeating that the Snapdragon XR1 works for mixed reality devices. Unlike Qualcomm’s other processors it designs for phones, the XR1 benefits headsets that will do more than current smartphones allow. The Snapdragon XR1 will grow as mixed reality grows, and the next-generation HoloLens wants to evolve as technology evolves. No device remains relevant by staying the same.
Why Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 will soar with the XR1 instead of the Snapdragon 845
Why will the HoloLens 2 use the Snapdragon XR1 instead of the Snapdragon 845? The answer is within in the purpose of the Snapdragon 845. The Snapdragon 845 can power any VR, AR, or MR headset, but its architecture is not specifically for extended reality devices. The Snapdragon XR1, on the other hand, is for beyond-reality headsets. In the case of HoloLens 2, the Microsoft headset will work without a smartphone.
Initially, mixed reality devices were powered by Qualcomm’s outdated Snapdragon 821. Qualcomm has said that the new XR1 is to update the Snapdragon 821 for middle and premium-end headsets. In that regard, the Snapdragon 845 would work. And yet, Microsoft seems to want the HoloLens 2 to have a fighting chance. Placing a smartphone SoC in a VR/AR/MR headset isn’t exactly a tailor-made experience. When it comes to the graphics, AI, and computing that mixed reality provides, only a tailor-made processor will do.
HoloLens 2 capabilities with the XR1
The Snapdragon XR1, according to Microsoft, will offer a “4K-ish screen resolution.” This is a perfect goal for the XR1 because Microsoft’s third-generation HoloLens (the first mass model is the second-generation HoloLens from 2016; the very first is from 2015) will need such a resolution for stellar graphics. Other mixed reality needs will arise in the future because MR, like VR and AR, will grow. The capabilities of the HoloLens 2 will outweigh the demands of the Qualcomm’s phone SoCs at some point; why not go ahead and just make the transition now to create an optimal experience?
There are other benefits too, such as the three-degrees of freedom and six-degrees of freedom (3DoF, 6DoF) that lets users move around in VR and explore the world behind the headset. Qualcomm says that its Snapdragon XR1 reduces motion latency below the 20ms requirement.
Microsoft HoloLens 2: What we know
Aside from the headset’s Qualcomm Snapdragon XR1 processor, the HoloLens 2, codenamed “Sydney,” will have a new sensor array with Microsoft’s Kinect sensor, improved display, and a second-generation holographic processing unit (HPU). Engadget says that Microsoft is “promising directional audio, 3D overlays and 4K video at 60 frames per second.”
The HoloLens 2 will still arrive in 2019, but Engadget’s source says that Microsoft could unveil its next-generation mixed reality headset at CES 2019. Earlier reports suggested that the new holographic headset would see a Q1 2019 release.
Other reports surrounding additional Microsoft products suggest that the Redmond company will unveil new Surface and Surface Pro tablets in 2018 and a new Xbox collection (hint: plural) in 2020.