This iPhone supplier’s eye-tracking VR headset is a glimpse of the future

Qualcomm has revealed designs for an eye-tracking virtual reality headset that it hopes third-party manufacturers will copy for their own VR devices.

The market-leading chipmaker, which supplies processors and modems for Apple’s iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones, has debuted the Snapdragon VR820, a reference design for a new VR headset that manufacturers will be able to mimic when creating their own products. The headset was showcased at this week’s IFA 2016 technology tradeshow in Berlin.

The Snapdragon VR820 is exciting for a couple of reasons. The first is that the headset is a standalone product, which means you don’t need to tether it to a computer (like the HTC Vive) or smartphone (like Samsung’s Gear VR) – it works on its own.

This is made possible thanks to the Snapdragon 820, one of the company’s most powerful processors (it’s in the Samsung Galaxy S7, for instance), which is fitted inside the headset. It will also feature its own display, two cameras for eye-tracking, and further two external cameras for tracking head motion. Other features include four microphones, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and magnetometer sensors.

snapdragon vr820

Qualcomm has showcased its own exterior for the device, but it would be down to manufacturers to create their own chassis, free from Qualcomm branding.

While this is the first time Qualcomm has shed light on its own VR headset, we have already seen a headset powered by a Snapdragon 820 chip. There’s the Pico Neo, which was co-developed with Goertek, the company that Qualcomm partnered with to create the Snapdragon VR820. The Pico Neo is different however, in that the processor is embedded in a gamepad, not the headset. It features 2K resolution displays for each eye, and a 70Hz refresh rate.

Qualcomm says its new design will be available for manufacturers in the fourth quarter of 2016, which means we’ll likely see the first Snapdragon VR820-inspired devices hitting the market at some point next year. Qualcomm says consumer-ready VR headsets will arrive “shortly” after manufacturer availability, so stay tuned.

At the time of writing, a Qualcomm spokesperson had not responded to our pricing inquiry.

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What do you think of Qualcomm’s VR headset reference design? Let us know in the comments.