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What is Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1? The augmented reality platform explained

Qualcomm recently announced its first augmented reality-only platform, the Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1. 

Here’s everything you need to know about Snapdragon AR2, including how it works, what features the platform powers and how it differs from Qualcomm’s current Snapdragon XR platform. 

What is Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1?  

The Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 is Qualcomm’s first Snapdragon platform purpose-built for augmented reality glasses. With this platform, Qualcomm wants to revolutionise the AR glasses form factor and push new spatial computing experiences between the real-world and the metaverse. 

The AR2 Gen 1 feature a multi-chip distributed processing architecture, consisting of an AR processor, an AR co-processor and the connectivity platform. 

The main AR processor is built upon a 4nm process and consists of a combination of existing IP blocks and custom blocks designed for AR2. 

It’s optimised for low motion-to-photon latency and supports up to nine cameras for user and environmental understanding. It also includes a dedicated hardware acceleration engine for better motion tracking and localisation, a reproduction engine to smooth out images and an AI accelerator for lower latency to prevent nausea when looking at virtual objects. 

The co-processor, meanwhile, powers the eye-tracking feature, along with biometric iris authentication to optimise workloads when the user is looking and limit power consumption when they aren’t. 

More complex data processing can be offloaded to a Snapdragon-powered smartphone or PC. 

Why include a co-processor?

The main idea behind having a processor and a co-processor is to balance the size and weight of the glasses the platform powers.

The three elements are spaced out, with the processor positioned in one arm, the connectivity platform in the other arm and the co-processor living in the centre of the glasses. This allows the arms and hinges on the glasses to remain much slimmer than they would be with a single processor. 

Compared with the Snapdragon XR2-powered Wireless AR Smart Viewer Reference Design, the main processor takes up 40% less space in the glasses and delivers 2.5x better AI performance. 

The platform also consumes 50% less power than XR2 for less than <1W in total. 

What’s the difference between Snapdragon AR2 and Snapdragon XR? 

The AR2 Gen 1 exists within Qualcomm’s XR portfolio, with the main difference between AR2 and the existing XR platform being the fact that Snapdragon AR2 is designed solely for augmented reality, whereas XR covers mixed and virtual reality. 

The platform also introduces benefits over XR, including 2.5x better AI performance and 50% lower power consumption compared with the Snapdragon’s XR2 Gen 1 platform.

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