OnQ Blog

Snapdragon 820 sneak peek: virtual reality experiences

Nov 9, 2015

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

I stood nervously on a narrow, circular platform suspended in the center of a massive sphere. As I looked down over the edge at what must have been a 500-meter drop, vertigo took hold. I anxiously stepped back to regain my focus. Then, taking a deep breath, I stepped forward to grab what appeared to be a short, curiously designed pipe. With a flick of a button toward its top, a green beam of light rushed forth from the pipe accompanied by the familiar and satisfying electric screech of a lightsaber. It was just in time, because that floating orb circling above in this dark expanse had just fired a laser beam at me.  

After deflecting a few of these laser blasts and several failed attempts to convince the guy running the demo to declare, “I am your father,” I put down the lightsaber and pulled off the headset. I had just finished my first virtual reality (VR) experience, and could not wait for the next.

Welcome to the world of VR. This technology enables you to immerse yourself into any world of your choosing. And you are truly immersed. Some VR demos for Google Cardboard are horror games, with very creepy things happening in the room around you—and it’s infinitely more terrifying to physically look over your shoulder to see what is sneaking up behind you than just to click the left button on your game controller.

I’m thrilled for the next wave of VR games and experiences, and I’m even more excited that the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 processor arrives in time to make them all that much better. Here’s why the Snapdragon 820 is at the forefront of all the areas essential in delivering that feeling of true immersion:

The Sights

First and foremost, this type of experience is about what you see. When a display is only a centimeter or two in front of your face, the pixels on the screen become very apparent; that’s known as the “screen-door effect.” If you ever needed the mobile 4K Ultra HD resolution made possible by the Snapdragon 820, VR is the reason. But it’s not only about the number of pixels—it’s also about the quality of those pixels, and that’s where the Qualcomm Adreno 530 GPU steps in. This new architecture delivers up to 40% faster performance than the previous generation, giving you high frame rates and smooth experiences.

With some VR cases, it’s also about what the device sees as well. For a VR experience that simulates walking across a tightrope to be truly immersive, you must have the ability to look down at your feet, for example. The Qualcomm Snapdragon Spectra ISP supports the speed and performance necessary for computer vision experiences.

The Sounds

But let’s be honest, without sound, all the pretty pixels in the world would make VR about as immersive as a silent movie. The only way to believe a flying droid or a possessed doll is sneaking up behind you is for you to hear them approaching from behind. That 360 degree audio experience is the magic of spatial audio running on Snapdragon 820.

The Feel

The final key component to true immersion in VR is the way in which you interact with the world. When you look around, does your view change in the way you would expect?  If the virtual world does not instantly turn when you do, that delay can break the immersion and even cause motion sickness. This is where the speed and efficiency of the major Snapdragon 820 technologies come together.

The sensor processing used on the Qualcomm Hexagon 680 DSP with Hexagon Vector Extensions (HVX) and the visual rendering of the Adreno 530 GPU must work in concert, nearly instantaneously, so you genuinely feel as though you are looking around within a 3D world. You can watch a case of just how much lag could ruin a VR experience.

Download our immersive experiences white paper for more details on how Qualcomm and Snapdragon are driving a new era of innovation.

Not only does the Snapdragon 820 offer the horsepower and features for immersive experiences—it also offers mobility. Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR, agrees that the biggest wave of VR will arise from mobile.

The large mobile ecosystem is ready to thrust VR onto center stage. The smartphone is now the most pervasive compute platform on the planet, and its users are used to playing games and using the device to interact with the world in new ways. With all the horsepower and quality needed to deliver the sensation of complete immersion, the Snapdragon 820 is poised to take you to places you’ve never been before—virtually.