Qualcomm, the company that provides modems and processors for the majority of smartphones on the market today, is putting its full weight behind Virtual Reality with the creation of a reference headset for manufacturers.
The reference device, which will offer the full power of its latest flagship processor alongside other tech will also have an ace up its sleeve. It won't need to be connected to a computer or console to work.
The company is hoping that by making a dedicated mobile VR experience to show off, device makers will be able to use the new reference design to quickly develop their own standalone headsets optimized for VR content and applications to release to the market in the coming months.
The move could spell an era where dozens of different headsets by different manufacturers are available to buy ultimately pushing down the price for dedicated VR devices for consumers.
Time to Daydream?
The news by Qualcomm could also mean we are about to see the launch of Google's upcoming Daydream VR experience on a dedicated VR headset rather than require you to put your phone in a cardboard casing to experience the virtual world.
Google's Daydream, launched at Google I/O earlier in the year, promises to effectively simplify access to virtual reality content on a mobile device both from a device perspective, but also a hardware one too.
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Although details of Google Daydream have yet to be fully detailed, the thinking is that manufactures will either have to create mobile phones to an optimal specification list set up Google, or build dedicated headsets that meet the company's standards.
A powerful dedicated VR headset with all the pieces of the puzzle already available to get the ball rolling fits that scenario nicely.
A crowded market
The VR market is currently dominated by four hardware makers: HTC, Oculus, and Samsung with the Vive, Rift, and Gear VR offerings respectfully, with Sony expected to quickly be crowded on top with the launch of the PlayStation VR. That could all quickly change though, with the news from Qualcomm today.
"Consumers everywhere are captivated by truly immersive VR experiences, and Qualcomm Technologies’ capabilities in graphics, displays, video, audio, computer vision and sensor technologies uniquely positions us to help customers bring these experiences to life," said Anthony Murray, a senior exec at Qualcomm told Pocket-lint in a statement on the news before going on to add that "The Snapdragon VR820 provides a springboard for OEMs and developers to usher in the next generation of truly portable and untethered devices that we think are necessary for mass consumer adoption of VR."
The reference headset, which won't be available for consumers to buy, features a Snapdragon 820 processor that has been tweaked specifically for VR.
It includes features such as integrated eye tracking with two cameras, dual front facing cameras for six degrees of freedom and see-through applications, four microphones, gyro, accelerometer, and magnetometer sensors.
Devices makers, will be expected to create their own design for the headset.
Devices possibly coming as soon as October
Qualcomm says the Snapdragon VR820 offering is anticipated to be available "sometime in Q4 2016", which could be as soon as October, with the first commercial devices based on the platform expected to be available shortly thereafter.
Some device makers have already started offering standalone VR headsets. Pico Neo is a headset powered by the Snapdragon 820 in its gamepad for example, while Alcatel announced the launch of the Vision, powered by a lower spec Qualcomm processor for launch early 2017. It is unsure at this time given the news from Qualcomm, whether both companies will look to upgrade their offerings before the products land on the shelves.