Qualcomm and Meta are teaming up to take our VR experiences to the next level, developing bespoke chipsets to power the next generation of VR headsets, the two tech giants announced at IFA 2022 Berlin.
In a speech that covered a lot of familiar ground and highlighted Qualcomm’s work with a number of companies, including Bose and Samsung, Qualcomm CEO Cristiano Amon saved the best for last.
Meta – parent company of Facebook and the Oculus Quest VR – and Qualcomm are no strangers. The companies previously partnered on customizing Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR platform (‘extended reality’) to create the Snapdragon XR2 for the Meta Quest 2. This new announcement, however, represents a deepening of the now seven-year relationship with Meta and Qualcomm working to develop platform experiences designed specifically for VR operations.
“I am proud to announce the next phase of our partnership, a deeper engineering collaboration. We will collaborate on custom virtual reality chipsets,” said Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, who attended the video keynote.
Snapdragon’s XR chipset is already powering 50 VR-related devices, according to Amon, but this will be the first time Qualcomm has been on the ground floor, which could spell good things for Meta’s upcoming Quest 3 and Project Cambria headsets.
The partnership represents an acknowledgment that the metaverse is set to be an important consumer experience and business opportunity for Qualcomm, which has so far developed mobile chips that broadly serve smartphones, laptops and the growing array of mixed reality and VR devices. Building chipsets and experiences with the metaverse in mind can mean richer experiences across a wider range of virtual activities.
Zuckerberg and Amon, however, did not mention which future headsets will feature these co-developed chipsets or when they might appear. It’s also unclear whether these features will be proprietary to the Quest headsets, and whether future Snapdragon XR chips will work similarly in VR gear from other companies.
There were some other goodies from Qualcomm, including Snapdragon’s future support for satellite communications. The announcement comes as companies like Starlink and T-Mobile are working to bring satellite communications to standard 5G phones, and Apple is rumored to be developing satellite capabilities in the iPhone 14 and Apple Watch 8.
Qualcomm’s Amon also hinted at some key developments in the field of electric vehicles.
“The best mobile experience is in the car,” said Amon, adding that Qualcomm is developing an open, horizontal platform for automotive systems. He also announced a special Automotive Investor Day on September 22, in which the company will detail its auto plan.
We finally made it to the Metaverse! #IFA2022 pic.twitter.com/WzNGv5gTM9September 2, 2022
The big bet
Virtual reality is only as good as its hardware and software, so the news that we can get better chips to power new metaverse experiences is exciting. That said, Metaverse is still largely an unproven commodity.
In a recent earnings report, Meta revealed that its Reality Labs division spent $10 billion in 2021 (opens in new tab). Consumers are buying VR headsets and playing games, but acceptance is far from ubiquitous at the iPhone level. While most people would say they can’t live without their smartphone, they probably wouldn’t say they couldn’t live without VR.
In a way, this is Meta and Qualcomm sharing the burden of bringing the metaverse to the masses. Meta is the social and VR expert, but has little to no silicon experience. Collaboration can result in the next-gen VR headsets and capabilities we’ve dreamed of.
Perhaps Zuckerberg said it best: “Unlike cell phones, building VR brings new multidimensional challenges in spatial computing, cost and form factor. These chipsets will help us continue to push VR to its limits and deliver incredible experiences.”
IFA 2022 is Europe’s biggest technology fair, and is in Berlin to bring you all the breaking news and announcements, as well as our hands-on first impressions of the new TVs, wearables, audio devices and other gadgets on display.