a sharing screen showing and augmented reality imposed on a video stream for maintenance

Businesses can adopt AR and VR into their operations to help productivity. Source: Qualcomm.

Dedicated AR/VR chips spur new business models

EMPLOYEES might soon see augmented and virtual reality devices being widely adopted into their workflow.

Qualcomm recently announced a dedicated chip made for augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

Known as the Snapdragon XR1, Qualcomm said the chip offers “better interactivity, power consumption, and thermal efficiency”.

Despite skepticism from the entertainment industry, XR1 presents an opportunity for AR and VR to improve productivity in the workplace.

This first AR/VR dedicated chip isn’t all that impressive. It supports 4K displays at 60fps, voice activation and tracks movements with six degrees of freedom. Qualcomm is marketing it towards passive viewing devices, which makes it disappointing for gamers.

However, the basic capability is exactly what businesses need. In the recent Build conference, Microsoft has shown off some practical uses of AR using Hololens for designing hardware to-scale.

It also demonstrated using AR for onsite troubleshooting without the need for an expert to travel to the location.

For these kinds of workloads, the device wouldn’t require gaming level of tracking and calibration but would need a dedicated chip that can provide a reliable viewing experience.

A dedicated chip makes sense for AR/VR workloads, as the chip can be designed to specifically handle the workload optimally. Typical central processing units (CPU) are designed to process logic operations.

This is a bit like how graphics processing units (GPU) are specifically designed for processing visuals, as CPUs are not optimized to handle the requirements of rendering graphics.

For AR/VR, it’s more than just graphics processing. The chips need to provide low latency as well to prevent nausea and motion sickness.

Microsoft isn’t the only one looking into business uses for AR.

Remember Google Glass? It was Google’s attempt at creating smart glasses that can be used for communications.

In 2017, Google has revamped Glass to cater exclusively for enterprise customers. Currently, it is being used in healthcare for performing surgery, as well as in engineering for troubleshooting.

With XR1, Qualcomm took the first step in creating a hardware that will support and cater to the need for simple AR/VR devices.

The chip is in no way a huge breakthrough that will contribute to a surge in AR/VR adoption in entertainment. It certainly didn’t make any waves in the gaming industry.

However, it will provide the base for business applications that can greatly improve workflow.