Qualcomm’s XR chief says MEC, XR are ‘perfect match’

Hugo Swart Qualcomm
Hugo Swart, VP and head of XR at Qualcomm Technologies, unveiled the Snapdragon XR2 Platform on Thursday. (Qualcomm)

MAUI, HAWAII—Qualcomm just announced the Snapdragon XR2 platform, which it says is the world’s first 5G-supported extended reality (XR) platform, and the company's head of XR says it’s a perfect match with the mobile edge computing (MEC) that carriers are in the midst of deploying.

Imagine if you want super high-quality visuals, and you need a lot of wattage to drive that. Of course, you can’t have 300 watts on your head, so you split the processing between what’s done on the headset and what’s done via MEC.

“That’s where a 5G-based XR2 will fit like a glove,” for what operators are doing with MEC, said Hugo Swart, VP and head of XR, Qualcomm Technologies.   

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KDDI and Deutsche Telecom were on the stage on Thursday at Qualcomm's Snapdragon Summit to talk about what they’re doing in XR. KDDI is branding its glasses, developed with Nreal, as “au,” which is its brand for mobile cellular and home internet services.

But other carriers are getting on the AR/VR train as well. Verizon earlier in the week provided numerous examples of AR/VR for its 5G offering, including in sports venues, and AT&T invested in Magic Leap.

Efforts and investments also are underway by the likes of Google, Facebook and Microsoft, and there are many others in the ecosystem besides Qualcomm.  

“It’s happening,” Swart said. “I really see the convergence.” For a long time, 5G and XR were two distinct industries, and now they’re coming together. “It’s really one industry pulling the other,” he said. The XR industry is looking for low latency, and the wireless industry is looking for ways to provide immersive experiences with 5G.

Devices using the XR2 platform are expected the second half of next year. From a Qualcomm perspective, there’s nothing preventing a customer from launching by that time, he said. Today, XR devices use Wi-Fi and for some use cases, that’s enough. But 5G offers always-on connectivity and more.

The XR2 comes in either 5G or non-5G versions. “I think there’s still a market for both,” he said.

The Snapdragon XR2 platform offers a lot of improvements over Qualcomm's current premium-tier XR platform, including 2x the CPU and GPU performance, 4x more video bandwidth, 6x higher resolution and 11x AI improvement. It supports 7 concurrent cameras and a dedicated computer vision processor.

Qualcomm said multiple OEMs are committed to commercializing devices with the Snapdragon XR2 and other customers are in various stages of prototyping and evaluation. 

Editor's Note: Qualcomm paid for this reporter’s travel and expenses related to attending this event.


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