OnQ Blog

Snapdragon 820 sneak peek: computer vision experiences

Oct 28, 2015

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

When you hear “computer vision,” you might imagine the red, motionless, beady eye of HAL 9000 in the classic film, 2001: A Space Odyssey. So you may think that computer vision is the stuff of science fiction, but it is already in your mobile device. Every time you scan a QR code, stitch together a wide panorama, or the boxes appear around your friend’s faces in the camera preview, you are using computer vision.

With its improved features and capabilities the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor is poised to usher in a new wave of computer vision based experiences. The breakthrough comes not through the camera lenses on the exterior of your phone, but from the brains inside.

As you’ve read previously, this processor is extraordinary because it combines the new Qualcomm Spectra camera ISP, new Qualcomm Hexagon 680 DSP (Digital Signal Processor), new Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU, and new Qualcomm Kryo CPU. Each of these compute blocks plays a special role and when combined their capabilities are greater than the sum of their parts.

The Snapdragon 820 is even more exciting because it is the manifestation of the rare event when all the major compute “planets” align with entirely new architectures. This alignment will mean nothing less than a quantum leap in capabilities and experiences. Here are just a few:

Clever Capture

The beauty of photography is capturing and immortalizing a moment in time. But those moments may pass in mere milliseconds, and we don’t always know when to expect them. Think of the difficulty in trying to capture the exact instant your kid strikes a soccer ball or a dolphin leaps from the water. The Qualcomm Clever Capture feature detects motion or smiles to trigger a burst of photo captures, allowing you to choose the best image. This is a photo of a bursting water balloon captured automatically with this feature. 

Snapdragon Text Activation

Computer vision encompasses more than just photography. Qualcomm Snapdragon Text Activation reads and interprets text in the real world and recommends the appropriate action or application.

Think of all the information contained on a business card: name, URL, phone, e-mail, address, etc. Instead of manually entering all of this information into your phone’s contacts app, Snapdragon Text Activation is designed to do that for you automatically. When the business card appears in your view finder, it recognizes the web address, and asks if you would like to open it in your browser. Or it can recognize the address and give you the option to open it directly in your mapping app.

This isn’t limited to the standard business card format. You could also scan a poster for a concert you’d like to attend, and it gives you the option to save the date and location in your calendar. Take a look at the above animation to see this computer vision feature in action.


Some computer vision features aren’t necessarily new for Snapdragon 820, but the support has been improved from previous chip generations. The Qualcomm Touch-to-Track feature, already implemented in a few Snapdragon based mobile devices, is now partially supported by the Hexagon 680 DSP hardware in the upcoming Snapdragon 820, designed to support the feature with lower power.

Touch-to-Track is engineered to allow users the ability to lock onto objects and automatically track them within the frame, then users zoom in on them, apply filters, and more —even while they're moving. Users can also track multiple objects within the frame, or apply effects to the object or background, such as altering the focus, to produce the kind of creative photography typically achieved using more expensive DSLR cameras.

But these few examples are not the end of the computer vision story. We’ve released FastCV, a computer vision library for app developers creating the next engaging experience. 

A look towards the future

The same exceptional computer vision capabilities that power the above experiences may also make their way into your car. The different combinations of DSP, ISP, GPU and CPU also make the ideal building blocks for driver assistance features like pedestrian, lane, and traffic sign detection to support better driving experiences. For example, enhanced navigation is possible by displaying the exact lanes you should change to in order to reach your exit, and warning you of the traffic speeds ahead.

These are a just a few examples of the types of experiences the upcoming Snapdragon 820 is engineered to support—all with lower power consumption through its custom architecture. You should expect to see devices featuring the Snapdragon 820 in the first half of 2016. Stay tuned here to learn more about the virtual reality experiences the Snapdragon 820 has in store.

Qualcomm Snapdragon, Qualcomm Spectra, Qualcomm Hexagon, Qualcomm Adreno, Qualcomm Kryo, Qualcomm Snapdragon Text Activation, Qualcomm Snapdragon Text-to-Track and Qualcomm Clever Capture are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.

Opinions expressed in the content posted here are the personal opinions of the original authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Qualcomm Incorporated or its subsidiaries ("Qualcomm"). Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by Qualcomm or any other party. This site may also provide links or references to non-Qualcomm sites and resources. Qualcomm makes no representations, warranties, or other commitments whatsoever about any non-Qualcomm sites or third-party resources that may be referenced, accessible from, or linked to this site.

Adam Kerin

Sr Manager, Marketing

©2021 Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its affiliated companies.

References to "Qualcomm" may mean Qualcomm Incorporated, or subsidiaries or business units within the Qualcomm corporate structure, as applicable.

Qualcomm Incorporated includes Qualcomm's licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of its patent portfolio. Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, operates, along with its subsidiaries, substantially all of Qualcomm's engineering, research and development functions, and substantially all of its products and services businesses. Qualcomm products referenced on this page are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Materials that are as of a specific date, including but not limited to press releases, presentations, blog posts and webcasts, may have been superseded by subsequent events or disclosures.

Nothing in these materials is an offer to sell any of the components or devices referenced herein.