Extended Reality (XR) is an umbrella term encapsulating Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), mixed reality (MR), and everything in between. Although drawing the line between AR and VR experiences can be challenging, it is clear that many of the same underlying technologies will power revolutionary XR experiences. XR will transform everyday consumer experiences and many market verticals from industrial manufacturing and healthcare to education and retail.
At some point in the future, we envision the convergence of the smartphone, mobile VR headset, and AR glasses into a single XR wearable. In this scenario, a single pair of XR glasses will primarily be used for AR but will also occasionally be used for VR. XR could replace all the other screens in your life, like that big TV in your living room. Mobile XR has the potential to become one of the world’s most ubiquitous and disruptive computing platforms, similar to the smartphone today.
Achieving our vision of sleek, comfortable, and fashionable XR glasses that are immersive, cognitive, and always-connected is extremely challenging. There are various technical problems that need to be solved for XR to reach mainstream adoption, but let’s focus on five key ones.
XR needs a disruptive revolution in display technology to show richer visual content and switch seamlessly between virtual and real worlds. Besides being comfortable and durable, XR displays will need to solve a myriad of challenges, such as the vergence-accommodation conflict, and to enable both transparency & opaqueness, a wide field of view (FoV), extreme pixel density, high frame rates, and increased screen brightness.
Making virtual objects in augmented worlds indistinguishable from real objects is a tremendous challenge. We need further convergence between the disciplines of computer vision and 3D graphics to deliver “common illumination” between virtual and real objects. This way, for example, a virtual picture frame that you place on your table will be indistinguishable from a real one under any lighting condition.
Intelligent on-device tracking of our head, hands, and eyes is required to interact intuitively with our XR glasses and create immersion. For example, low-latency and precise inside-out 6 degrees of freedom (6 DoF) head tracking is required to meet the motion-to-photon latency of world-scale VR. Also, for most use cases, the best controller is no controller, so hand tracking in AR-mode and creating realistic virtual hands in VR-mode are essential.
Meeting the always-on, compute intensive workloads of XR within the power and thermal constraints of sleek XR glasses is very challenging. Improvements in performance per watt, battery technology, material science, software efficiency, and standardization are required across the ecosystem to meet our vision.
Seamless and ubiquitous connectivity to the internet and cloud services is required for XR to reach its full potential. The streaming of XR video, which requires up to gigabits of bandwidth and very low latency, is expected to become the killer 5G use case in the next decade. 5G enhanced mobile broadband will provide multi-gigabit throughputs, over the air latency down to 1 millisecond, and uniform experience of 100 megabits per second even at the cell edge to meet this demand.
Achieving our XR vision will take significant R&D and cooperation amongst top technology companies. Similar to smartphone evolution, XR designs will progressively become sleeker while tremendously increasing functionality. We're currently in the early days of a multi-decade cycle.
Qualcomm Technologies is leading XR forward and is uniquely positioned to deliver superior mobile XR solutions at low power. We’re developing the foundational technology required for XR, such as immersive 3D graphics, computer vision, machine learning, intuitive security, and 5G technologies. We’re also working with the ecosystem and investing in leading XR companies — all in an effort to make our vision of XR a reality sooner.
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