OnQ

The new era of immersive experiences: making it possible

21 Aug 2015

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

We want immersive experiences. That’s the conclusion I’ve reached after asking people “what are the experiences worth having, remembering, and reliving?” I wasn’t surprised to hear things like: a live sporting event or concert, an exotic vacation, a great movie, or nature. These immersive experiences stimulate our senses—they draw us in, take us to another place, and keep us present in the moment. The question that I’ll answer in this blog post is: how technology is making our everyday experiences more immersive—whether we are playing a video game on our smartphone, video conferencing on our tablet, or watching sports on our virtual reality headset.

The broader dimensions of full immersion

Stimulating our senses is vital to immersion. The three key pillars that make an experience immersive are visual quality, sound quality, and intuitive interactions. While each pillar stands alone at making experiences more immersive—think of the importance of the visual quality when viewing a photo or sound quality when listening to music—they are also complementary and synergistic. Immersion happens when all three pillars are combined together. Each pillar has multiple dimensions that improve the overall quality. Full immersion can only be achieved by simultaneously focusing on the broader dimensions of each pillar.

Too often, the mobile industry has focused most of its attention on specific dimensions that do not necessarily provide the biggest bang for the buck. For example, visual quality isn’t only about the quantity of pixels, such as the resolution and frame rate. It’s also about the quality of pixels. Realistic color, sharpness, and just the right amount of brightness are equally critical to making experiences more immersive. Consider the importance of color accuracy for critical decisions, whether you are trying to pick the correct matching dress as a bridesmaid or the right paint for the living room.

For sound quality, the two key dimensions are high resolution audio and sound integrity. When the sound is realistic and matches the visual, you can be truly immersed in the experience. In contrast, when the sound quality is compromised, we immediately notice it—think of a movie where the audio was muffled or mismatched with the lip movements.

For intuitive interactions, natural user interfaces and contextual interactions are the two key dimensions. It is very hard to be immersed in a moment if you are constantly distracted or trying to figure out how to interact with your devices. Natural user interfaces, such as gesture and voice, allow us to seamlessly interact with devices. Contextual interactions allow devices to provide intelligent notifications and personalized experiences based on context. This keeps us in the moment and prevents unnecessary interruptions. For example, while you don’t want to be interrupted from a virtual reality gaming session because of a telemarketer’s phone call, you do want a notification when the pizza delivery person rings your doorbell.

Focusing on the right dimensions based on the device and user experience is the key to making experiences appropriately immersive. Getting this right is challenging since it requires an expertise in multiple technology vectors and meeting the performance, power, and thermal requirements. So what’s the right approach?

The optimal approach

The optimal way to enhance these broader dimensions of immersive experiences requires an end-to-end approach, heterogeneous computing, and utilizing cognitive technologies.

An end-to-end approach means thinking holistically at the system level, understanding all the challenges, and working with other companies in the ecosystem to develop comprehensive solutions. For example, the end-to-end approach is essential for maintaining color accuracy—one of the dimensions of visual quality—from camera to display. 

Heterogeneous computing uses specialized engines across the System-on-Chip (SoC) to meet processing requirements of immersive experiences at low power and thermals. For example, image processing tasks, like computational photography, use the majority of the processing engines in the SoC, such as the ISP, GPU, DSP, CPU, and display engine.

Cognitive technologies, like machine learning and computer vision, make experiences more immersive. For example, cognitive camera improves visual quality by automatically capturing better images and videos.

Qualcomm Technologies is taking this optimal approach and is uniquely positioned to enhance the broader dimensions of immersive experiences. Qualcomm Snapdragon processors are designed to provide an optimal heterogeneous computing solution by taking a system approach and custom designing specialized engines. For example, the new custom Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU and Qualcomm Spectra camera ISP in Qualcomm Technologies' recently announced Snapdragon 820 are engineered to significantly enhance the visual processing capabilities to support next-generation immersive experiences related to computational photography, virtual reality, and photo-realistic graphics. Qualcomm Technologies also provides development and optimization tools to the ecosystem, enabling content creation and optimized devices. The goal is to see products with immersive experiences being commercialized as quickly as possible.

I’m very excited to see what’s possible in the new era of immersive experiences. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post on virtual reality. I’ll explore whether it is really the ultimate level of immersion.

Want to learn more? Be sure to check out our Immersive Experience website and webinar. Also, sign up to receive the latest information about mobile computing in our Mobile Computing newsletter.

Qualcomm Snapdragon, Qualcomm Adreno, and Qualcomm Spectra are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.